Take 3: Holiday Date Review

Last year, in a Word on the Street story, I talked about how Hanukkah would be incorporated into two upcoming Hallmark movies. As time has gone on, these films were revealed to be Holiday Date and Double Holiday. Recently, on Deseret News, a writer named Gillian Friedman shared why she wasn’t looking forward to seeing Hanukkah featured in Hallmark’s films. When I read her article, I found that she had good, valid points to her argument. Gillian wasn’t alone, as I read more similar opinions on the internet. However, I still chose to review Holiday Date with an open mind. Like I mentioned in the aforementioned Word on the Street story, movies that discuss the Jewish faith are not commonly found in Hallmark’s cinematic library. So, I was glad to see that the network was adopting story-elements that we haven’t seen in quite a while. I was also curious to see how Hanukkah would be included in both films. Now that I have seen Holiday Date, it’s time for me to share my honest opinion about this much talked about movie!

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

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Brittany Bristow is an actress that has appeared in several Hallmark projects. Whenever she is given a supporting role, she has always found a way to stand out and be the best actress that she can be. I was excited when I found out she had received the lead role in Holiday Date, as I knew she had what it takes to carry a Hallmark film. Brittany’s performance in this movie did not disappoint! She had a very pleasant on-screen personality and was versatile in her portrayal of Brooke. Another actor that gave a versatile performance was Matt Cohen! For his first time starring in a Hallmark film, he did a really good job portraying Joel. Throughout the movie, Matt was funny and charismatic, which helped make his character memorable. This makes me hope that Matt appears in more Hallmark films in the future! The supporting cast in Holiday Date was solid! What worked in their favor was how well each cast member worked with one another. This was achieved by the good on-screen chemistry between the film’s actors and actresses.

 

The humor: In my review of The Nine Lives of Christmas, I said that it feels like most of Hallmark’s Christmas movies have been light on humor this year. Seeing Holiday Date as a more humorous story than other “Countdown to Christmas” films was a pleasant surprise. The type of humor that can be found in this movie is “comedy of errors”. Because the story is about a man and a woman who pretend to be a couple, it makes sense to include “comedy of errors” into the narrative. I found the humor in Holiday Date to be well-written and genuinely funny. One scene that I thought was hilarious was when Joel tried to keep Brooke’s dad’s (Walter’s) glasses away from him in an attempt to avoid seeing Joel’s television commercial. Since the whole cast had good comedic timing, it helped all the humor in Holiday Date stick the landing!

 

A unique story: A story involving a “fake” significant other is nothing new for Hallmark Channel. But, because this kind of story is not featured as often as other narratives, it makes Holiday Date feel like a breath of fresh air! Standing out from other films on the network, Holiday Date creates a sense of memorability for itself. The movie’s creative team went against the grain and focused more on quality than formula. This movie incorporated different story-telling elements into the script. The inclusion of Hanukkah is a good example of this. With this creative decision, it allows for interesting perspectives to be shown and discussed. Watching Joel and Brooke’s family learning and experiencing each other’s traditions and cultures was a great thing to see. It instills the values of friendship and family that are woven into the fabric of Hallmark Channel.

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Hanukkah mehorah image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/mehorah-with-flaming-candles_3299423.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The “it’s not what you think” cliché: In Holiday Date, Joel sees Brooke spending time with her ex-boyfriend. This causes him to assume that she still has romantic feelings for her ex. While I wasn’t a fan of Brooke’s ex-boyfriend showing up unannounced, I found that particular scene to be surprisingly hilarious. But, as for the “it’s not what you think” cliché, I thought it was unnecessary. The main plot of the story already provided a conflict for Brooke and Joel, so they really didn’t need a second conflict. Also, since most of the female main characters in Hallmark movies form a relationship with the male main character, the audience knows who she will ultimately fall in love with.

 

No subplots: Because Brooke and Joel’s “fake” relationship is the primary focus of the story, the majority of the film’s events revolve around this conflict. However, I found several missed opportunities for subplots to take place. One example is Tessa’s desire to become an actress. During Holiday Date, Tessa auditions for the local theater’s Christmas play. I liked seeing this part of the story unfold. But I think it could have been fully explored if it were a subplot. I also think that some of the characters could have benefited from receiving their own story. In the movie, Brooke’s sister, Ashley, and her husband, Glen, mention that their new house has met some difficulties when it comes to its construction. Like Tessa’s part of the story, this wasn’t explored as much as it could have been. Having one or two subplots might have added some interesting elements to the overall narrative.

 

An isolated story: One of the reasons why Joel agrees to pose as Brooke’s boyfriend is so he can gain research for a potential acting job. What makes Holiday Date different from other stories with small-town backgrounds is that Brooke’s town, Whispering Pines, didn’t really play a strong role in the story. Sure, a few establishments were featured, such as Brooke’s uncle’s hardware store. But it felt like Joel received a limited scope of small-town life. The people within the town only made brief appearances in the film. This prevented them from sharing their perspectives with Joel and making a bigger contribution to the story. Because of these things, it made the overall narrative feel isolated.

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Christmas house created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/smiling-snowman-with-a-red-house-background_958592.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Films are a subjective medium. Because of this, everyone is bound to view movies differently. Holiday Date is a good example of this. Some people were not a fan of Hallmark choosing to incorporate Hanukkah into their films. Personally, I found Holiday Date to be nowhere near as offensive as some people made it sound. While watching this movie, I could tell the network had the best intentions when creating this film. Through the interactions of Joel and Brooke’s family, it felt like the film’s creative team had their hearts in the right place. Holiday Date is a film that I truly enjoyed! There were a lot of elements that worked in this project’s favor, from the entire cast to the creativity of the story. This film has its flaws, but, to me, the positives outweighed the negatives. When I look back on Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up, Holiday Date will be one of the films that I’ll fondly remember.

 

Overall score: 7.9 out of 10

 

What are thoughts on Hanukkah appearing in Hallmark’s films? Have you seen Holiday Date? Let me know in the comment section below!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

 

If you want to read Gillian Friedman’s article, here’s the link:

https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2019/12/6/20997216/hallmark-hanukkah-movie-double-holiday-date-countdown-christmas-antisemitism-chanukah-jewish-menorah

I also found this interview with Holiday Date star, Matt Cohen, so here’s the link if you want to check that out as well:

Matt Cohen talks Hallmark Channel’s Holiday Date

Word on the Street: News about Upcoming and Potential Hallmark movies!

I am back with my first Word on the Street story for December! While Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups are winding down and the “Winterfest” line-up is on its way, I found several Hallmark related movie news stories that I had to share with my readers and followers. Some of these projects are currently in production, but others haven’t even started filming yet. Most of these stories come from the Twitter account, Hotline to Hallmark. Two of these movies can be found on the website, Creative B.C. For this post, I will be reporting on these pieces of movie news and share my sources within this article. Since there’s so many films to talk about and since most of the information is on the basic side, I won’t be sharing my insight this time.

Vector set of isometric illustrations making movies and watching a movie in the cinema.
Movie process chart created by Vectorpocket at freepik.com <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/vector-set-of-isometric-illustrations-making-movies-and-watching-a-movie-in-the-cinema_1215936.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by Vectorpocket – Freepik.com</a> Image found at freepik.com

On December 10th, the Twitter account, Hotline to Hallmark, released a tweet about a potential Hallmark project. In this post, it was announced that Hallmark actor, Clayton Chitty, will be starring in a film called “Blueprint to the Heart”. Also, the tweet mentioned that the movie’s network was unknown, as of December 2019. On the website, Creative B.C., this movie is listed on the “In Production” page. Apparently, this project will finish filming on December 13th. Six days prior, on December 4th, Cindy Busby, who is a regular star of Hallmark, tweeted that she was working on a movie in Australia. This tweet, that was re-tweeted by Hotline to Hallmark, shares a link to an article about the film. The article, found on if.com.au, revealed that the project is currently titled “Romance on the Menu”. Based on the synopsis, it sounds like a Hallmark movie. But, as of December 2019, it’s unknown where this film will premiere.

You can visit the Twitter account of Hotline to Hallmark by typing @HotlineHallmark into Twitter’s search bar.

The article about “Romance on the Menu”: https://www.if.com.au/first-time-feature-director-rosie-lourde-finds-romance-on-the-menu/

The link to Creative B.C.’s “In Production” page: https://www.creativebc.com/crbc-services/provincial-film-commission-services/in-production/films.php?type=tv_movie (after December 13th, “Blueprint to the Heart” will be removed from the page)

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String lights with hearts created by Freepik at freepik.com <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/valentine-s-day-background-with-string-lights_1476879.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

While the two aforementioned projects have no known fate, there are a few upcoming films that have been confirmed as Hallmark movies. Some of these confirmations have been announced from the stars of those films. One of them is a movie that will premiere in the 2020 Christmas season! In a tweet that was included in Hotline to Hallmark’s tweet, Brennan Elliott, a familiar face on both of Hallmark’s networks, revealed that he was working on a movie called “Christmas in Vienna”. In this same tweet, he also shared that the project would be filmed in Vienna, Austria and that the movie’s female lead will be Sarah Drew. Also, on Hotline to Hallmark, news about Taylor Cole’s Valentine’s Day movie was announced! In a Word on the Street story last month, I talked about how Taylor would be starring in a Hallmark Valentine’s Day movie alongside Ryan Paevey. This was one of the reasons why I speculated that One Winter Wedding could either be a “June Weddings” or Christmas movie. In Hotline to Hallmark’s tweet, it mentioned that Taylor herself confirmed that the third One Winter movie was still happening! This tweet says “that the script for Hallmark’s “One Winter Wedding” is being worked on”. As for the Valentine’s Day movie, it now has a working title called “Matching Hearts”. Two other cast members have been announced as well. They are Antonio Cayonne and Latonya Williams.

You can visit the Twitter account of Hotline to Hallmark and Brennan Elliott by typing @HotlineHallmark and @brennan_elliott into Twitter’s search bar.

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Cupcake with hearts image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/delicious-cupcakes-illustrations_779154.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/food”>Food vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Two other Hallmark movies have been announced outside of the Hotline to Hallmark twitter account. In an article from International Business Times, several Hallmark stars were interviewed during Christmas Con, a Christmas themed convention that took place in early November. The majority of questions that were asked were about future movie projects. While the answers consisted of wishful thinking and vagueness, only one was definitive. When asked about Hallmark’s Wedding March series, Jack Wagner, one of the stars of that series, said “We will be doing “Wedding March 6” in the spring”. This means that another Wedding March chapter will likely be seen in 2020’s “June Weddings” line-up! On the website, Creative B.C. another movie from the Mystery 101 series has been listed on the “In Production” page. Currently, the film is called Mystery 101: Educated Murders. The “In Production” page reveals that the movie will go into production from January 6th to the 31st. Based on this fact, I’m guessing that the film will premiere in either spring or summer of 2020.

The article from International Business Times: https://www.ibtimes.com/christmas-con-2019-recap-biggest-news-hallmark-lifetime-stars-revealed-during-panels-2879266

The link to Creative B.C.’s “In Production” page: https://www.creativebc.com/crbc-services/provincial-film-commission-services/in-production/films.php?type=tv_movie (after January 31st, Mystery 101: Educated Murders will be removed from the page)

Female detective with magnifying glass
Female detective image created by Brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/female-detective-with-magnifying-glass_1250814.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Brgfx – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are thoughts on these upcoming films? Which one sounds the most interesting to you? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Christmas at Dollywood Review

In my review of Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, I said that I would publish my review of Christmas at Dollywood on December 10th. Since I try my best to be a blogger of my word, I am here to present that review as promised! Out of the all the Christmas movies set to premiere in 2019, Christmas at Dollywood was my most anticipated. Ever since the Home & Family team went to Dollywood three years ago, I have wanted to visit the park ever since. So, when I heard that Hallmark would be featuring the Pigeon Forge attraction in one of their Christmas films, it immediately became a “must-watch” film for me! Christmas at Dollywood is Hallmark history in the making: it’s the first time an amusement park has been featured in a Hallmark movie and the first time Dollywood has ever been incorporated in a film! Because of this, I was hoping that this would be the Christmas at Graceland of 2019. When Danica McKellar and Niall Matter were cast as the film’s leads, it increased my level of excitement for the movie! I’ve enjoyed watching Danica’s and Niall’s acting performances over the years, so seeing them appear together for the first time in a Hallmark production made the movie seem even better!

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

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I thought the overall acting was good in Christmas at Dollywood! When I discovered that Danica McKellar and Niall Matter were going to star in the film, I was so excited to see these two actors working alongside each other on screen! Danica’s portrayal of Rachel appeared natural in this film. With the use of various expressions, she was able to make her performance believable. In his performance, Niall made his character, Luke, seem charming and easy-going. Because of his acting abilities, it helped this character be as approachable and likable as possible. I found myself impressed with the performances of the supporting cast! They not only complimented the main stars, they also complimented one another. It was nice to see Crystal Lowe star in Christmas at Dollywood! Outside of the Signed, Sealed, Delivered series, I feel like her appearances in Hallmark projects are on the rarer side. But despite the fact that she is one of the network’s underrated actresses, she always brings versatility to every role she is given. This makes her performances such a joy to watch!

 

The on-screen chemistry: Danica McKellar and Niall Matter are not only talented actors, they also present a likable personality to their audience. These things worked in their favor when it came to the on-screen chemistry. Throughout the film, Rachel and Luke always appeared to get along with one another. That’s because both Danica and Niall gave a believable performance, giving their audience the impression that they enjoyed working together. Another thing that helped Danica and Niall was their years of experience leading Hallmark projects. Danica has starred in Hallmark films since 2015, while Niall has been appearing in Hallmark’s movies since 2016. Their similar amount of experience and the quality of their acting abilities made this on-screen duo very memorable!

 

The acknowledgement of literacy: From time to time, Hallmark likes to incorporate a worthy cause or a real-life non-profit organization into their stories. For Christmas at Dollywood that cause was literacy. Similar to what I said about the overarching message in Flushed Away, this acknowledgement toward literacy never felt preachy or heavy-handed. It always felt like it had a natural place in the story. From the inclusion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to seeing Rachel share bed-time stories with her daughter, the importance of literacy can be seen and heard at several moments in this film. I’m glad this film’s creative team took the initiative to highlight a cause that rarely gets recognition in a Hallmark production.

dollywood-grist-mill-1430815-1280x960
Image of Dollywood Grist Mill created by Courtney Backlund at freeimages.com. Photo by <a href=”/photographer/abbsmist-58275″>Courtney Backlund</a> from <a href=”https://freeimages.com/”>FreeImages</a&gt;. Image found at freeimages.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A misleading premise: When I first learned what this movie would be about, I was led to believe that Christmas at Dollywood was the story of a Dollywood employee (Niall Matter’s character) and a New York City playwright (Danica McKellar’s character) putting on a Christmas show in the theme park. Because of this, I was excited to not only see an amusement park’s debut in a Hallmark project, but to also have an underappreciated but essential theme park component get the recognition it deserves on film. When I saw the movie, however, I discovered that the premise was, yet, another party planning story. Honestly, I was disappointed by Hallmark’s decision to swap a creative sounding narrative for something that was “tried and true” and “safe”. It made the movie more predictable than it needed to be.

 

A limited presence of Dollywood: Before watching this film, I knew that Dollywood wasn’t going to be featured in the movie for very long. That’s because it is a functioning business, which means the people involved with day-to-day operations can’t afford to close it for an extended period of time. But the park itself was showcased so little on screen, that it made the story feel like it didn’t need to take place in Dollywood. Most of the movie took place in either an office building or Rachel’s house. Also, there are so many unique and appealing elements of the theme park that could have incorporated in the story, such as the attraction, “Wings of America Birds of Prey”. In my opinion, the creative team behind 2018’s Christmas at Graceland did a better job at highlighting the iconic Memphis location than Christmas at Dollywood’s creative team did for the Pigeon Forge theme park.

 

The party’s absence: Because this is a party planning story, it means the protagonists’ primary goal is to coordinate a VIP party. In Christmas at Dollywood, however, this aforementioned event never gets shown on screen. This is unfair not only for both protagonists, but also for the viewers. Throughout the movie’s majority, we see these characters working hard to create the best event they can. But, because of the party’s absence, that final outcome and pay-off are not included in the story. This makes it look like the protagonists’ efforts weren’t recognized. As for the viewers, they spend almost the whole movie watching these characters put together this elaborate event. Since the party itself is not included in the narrative, it seems like the audience spent all that time waiting for nothing.

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Essential items of Christmas image created by Moonstarer at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-elements-collection_994917.htm’>Designed by Moonstarer</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Moonstarer – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in the introduction, Christmas at Dollywood was my most anticipated Christmas movie of 2019. Because of this, I had higher expectations for this movie than I did for other Hallmark titles. Unfortunately, this movie didn’t live up to those expectations. Sure, it was decent. But it wasn’t the “home-run” I was expecting it to be. The biggest issue I had with this project was how I was led to believe I would receive a creative and intriguing story, only to have it turn into a “run-of-the-mill” narrative. This kind of reminded me of how I felt about the Good Witch episode, “The Prince”. In my editorial, “When Creativity is Squandered: The Wasted Potential on Hallmark’s Good Witch”, I talked about how Hallmark’s desire to tell the same types of stories over and over again caused that particular episode of Good Witch to not reach its full creative potential. What could have been a memorable, historic moment for Hallmark’s television shows ended up being forgettable and tired. With Christmas at Dollywood, there were two “firsts” for Hallmark movie history. Premiering during the 10th anniversary of Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up, this movie could have something really special. Sadly, like “The Prince”, Christmas at Dollywood just came short of its full potential.

 

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

 

Have you seen Christmas at Dollywood? What are your thoughts on Hallmark’s story-telling abilities? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at Dollywood!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Flushed Away Review + 160 Follower Thank You

Before the end of November, I received 160 followers on 18 Cinema Lane! As I usually do when this occasion takes place, I take the time to thank all my followers for choosing to support me, my blog, and my blogging journey. My way of thanking them is by dedicating a movie review to each and every one of them. For this post, I have chosen a movie that was released in November of 2006. Since I haven’t talked about an animated film in three months, I decided to talk about a film called Flushed Away. This is a movie that I have heard of, but never seen. Prior to watching this film, I was aware of Aardman Animations, the studio responsible for Flushed Away. That’s because they have an animation style that is different from other studios. When I was looking for images to feature in this review, I discovered that, in the Chinese New Year, 2020 will be the Year of the Rat! So, talking about Flushed Away before the start of a new decade now makes a lot of sense.

Flushed Away poster
Flushed Away poster created by Aardman Animations, DreamWorks Animation, and Paramount Pictures. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flushed_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The animation: In Flushed Away, I found the animation style to be visually appealing for a number of reasons. The first is how realistic some of the animation looked, such as the bricks in the sewer and anytime water is shown. Another aspect is the color palette that is used in the film. One of the movie’s most memorable locations, the sewer city, was filled with bright hues. This added to the visual appeal of the scenes where this area was featured. The sewer city also showcased interesting and creative elements, like a Ferris Wheel made out of teacups. What I also found interesting in this film was how the characters were created. Aardman Animations has a very distinct style that is rarely seen in mainstream cinema. However, I’m more familiar with this animation style appearing in stop-motion films. Flushed Away’s creative team used computer technology to construct their project. I found it fascinating to see this unique animation style incorporated in a different cinematic format.

 

The “Easter Egg” humor: Sometimes, in cinema, screenwriters will include “Easter Eggs” in their story in an attempt to delight and humor their audience. This was a pleasant surprise to find within Flushed Away! The jokes that were brought into the movie using this “Easter Egg” method were clever and genuinely funny. One example is when Roddy is falling down into the sewer system. During this process, Roddy comes across a small fish that asks him if he has seen his dad. This is meant to reference Finding Nemo, a movie that was released three years prior. Because of how well this type of humor was executed, this helped me maintain my focus in the film.

 

The overarching message: In some children’s/family-friendly films, there are times when a message can feel heavy-handed or preachy. I didn’t feel that way about the overarching message in Flushed Away. The idea that “everybody needs somebody” was written into the story very intelligently and subtly. It was also visually showcased through the use of situations and character choices as well as through dialogue. This choice to present the message in a “show and tell” style was handled better than if it was just verbally explained to the audience. The incorporation of this message showed that the creative team made an effort to put heart in their project.

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Chinese New Year — Year of the Rat image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The plot: Flushed Away is about a rat who is trying to return home. While this sounds like a simple story, I found the film’s overall narrative to be too simplistic. Even though there were other plots featured in the movie, I also found those to be on the simpler side. Because of this, it made the story feel like there was very little intrigue. It also made it difficult for me to stay fully invested in what was happening on screen.

 

The villain: Yet, another film I’ve recently reviewed where I didn’t like the villain. In the case of Flushed Away, I not only found the villain, The Toad, to be poorly written. I also found him to be unconvincing. Similar to what I said about Blair from The Nine Lives of Christmas, The Toad came across as one-dimensional. He also never felt like a legitimate threat to the protagonist and his friend, Rita. Both Roddy and Rita outsmart him and his henchmen every time, causing the villain to not be as powerful as the film’s creative team wanted us to think. If anything, The Toad just appears to be a goofier version of Governor Ratcliffe from Disney’s Pocahontas.

 

Some of the humor: While I liked the “Easter Egg” humor of this film, there was other humor that I was not a fan of. This came in the form of “gross-out” humor and injury related humor. To me, the “gross-out” humor felt it was there just for the sake of being there. Meanwhile, the injury related humor happened too consistently. There was one character that constantly got hurt throughout the story. However, I never found any of these moments to be funny. I know that comedy is a very subjective thing. But this kind of humor, at times, took me of the film.

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

My overall impression:

Before I share my thoughts on Flushed Away, I want to thank all of my followers for supporting 18 Cinema Lane! 2019 has been a great year for the blog. Part of that is because of my readers, followers, and visitors. Ok, now it’s time to share my overall impression of this film. Personally, I thought it was just ok. In Flushed Away, there were components that I liked seeing, such as the animation and the overall message. But there were aspects that held Flushed Away back from reaching its full potential. Just one example is how the overall plot was too simplistic for my liking. As I’ve said before, comedy and film are subjective. Yes, I enjoyed the “Easter Egg” style of humor. But I did not like the “gross-out” and injury related humor. While I think there are better animated films than Flushed Away, there are definitely worse children’s/family friendly films than this one. No matter the style or format of the animated project, I will continue to do my best at presenting the best movie reviews I can offer.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

What are thoughts on my blogging journey so far? Which review of mine has been your favorite? Tell me what you think in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Nine Lives of Christmas Review

For Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Happy Holidays Blogathon, I had planned on reviewing more than one film. However, after reflecting on how many movies I reviewed in November, I decided to talk about only one instead. When I signed up for this blogathon last month, I knew that I wanted to review The Nine Lives of Christmas, a Hallmark Channel movie that was released in 2014. Among fans of the network, this movie has caused the same reaction that 2006’s The Christmas Card has. From making repeat appearances in Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up to fans of the film asking for a sequel, The Nine Lives of Christmas has gained a following of devoted audience members. Every Christmas season on 18 Cinema Lane, I try to review at least one past Hallmark Christmas film. This is to determine if my thoughts on the movie are similar to the general consensus. Last year, I talked about the aforementioned film, The Christmas Card. As I mentioned in that review, a lot of Hallmark fans love this movie. However, I found it to be just ok. So, it’ll be interesting to see how I feel about The Nine Lives of Christmas.

The Nine Lives of Christmas poster
The Nine Lives of Christmas poster image created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel Poster image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=The%20Nine%20Lives%20of%20Christmas&IsSeries=False

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In most of Hallmark’s films, the acting from the entire cast appears natural and believable. That’s no different for The Nine Lives of Christmas! As I’ve said in my review of Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, it’s always nice to see Kimberley Sustad appear in a Hallmark movie. Even though seeing her in a lead role is rare, I know that Kimberley will bring her A game to every role she is given. In The Nine Lives of Christmas, Kimberley’s portrayal of Marilee was delightful! Through her performance, she was able to create a character that was relatable. This was done by bringing various emotions and behaviors to her role. I also liked Brandon Routh’s portrayal of Zachary! He effectively gave me the impression that his character was a tough man with a kind heart. This fit the idea that I, personally, have of firefighters; strong and selfless individuals who are ready to save the day. Watching his interactions with Ambrose, the cat, were very sweet. It allowed the character to make a transformation in his perspectives, which Brandon naturally portrayed through his expressions and on-screen personality. The supporting cast was very memorable! They were able to elevate the material and help make it memorable. This is what made the overall cast a solid group of actors and actresses!

 

The interactions between the characters: A great component of this film was the various interactions that took place among the characters! What made them work was how natural they came across on screen. Whenever Zachary was sharing a scene with his fellow firefighters, I could sense the camaraderie between these characters. It was nice to see them share funny moments as well as look out for each other’s best interests. Another character interaction that I liked seeing was between Marilee and her sister, Jaclyn. Even though their personalities were different, their relationship felt genuine. I was always led to believe that Jaclyn had her sister’s best interests in mind and that Marilee truly cared about her sibling. Because this group of actors was talented, this added to the enjoyment of these interactions!

 

The humor: For some reason, it seems like most of Hallmark’s Christmas films have been light on humor this year. So, I found the light-hearted and humorous nature of The Nine Lives of Christmas to be refreshing! There were several moments that made me burst out laughing. One example is the very first scene, when Zachary was having his picture taken for a charity calendar. What made the moment work was the dialogue among the characters. It was well-written and good-natured, which helped make it feel genuine. Even the moments with Ambrose were funny! A perfect example is when the cat sits on Zachary’s chair, even after Zachary told him not to. The overall humor of this film made my viewing experience very memorable!

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The Happy Holidays Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/10/22/announcing-the-happy-holidays-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The villain: Within the first half of this movie, Zachary dates an unlikable woman named Blair. While the actress who portrayed this character, Chelsea Hobbs, did a really good job at bringing Blair to life and while it is rare to find an over-the-top villain in a Hallmark production, I found this particular character to be one-dimensional. I realize that the fault lies in the screen-writing, as that is where the structure of any character is built. In The Nine Lives of Christmas, Blair was a terrible person because she was a terrible person. I did not find this to be very interesting. Let me give you an example of when a villain/antagonist works within the story: in A Christmas Miracle, Emma’s boss, Valerie, is so desperate to impress her boss, that she steals Emma’s idea and tries to pass it off as her own. This leads her to make more choices that give the audience a reason to find her villainous. So, in that movie, Valerie is a terrible person because of her unlikable decisions.

 

An uneven build-up to Zachary and Marilee’s relationship: While Brandon and Kimberley had good on-screen chemistry and while Zachary and Marilee’s relationship was very sweet, I found the build-up of the relationship to be uneven. In the first half of the movie, Zachary and Marilee barely spent any time together. This caused the initial union of these characters to feel drawn-out. In the second half of the film, Zachary and Marilee spend almost every day together, which caused the relationship to feel rushed. The build-up didn’t have a sense of consistency and the transition was too abrupt.

 

Not a Christmas story: When I think of a Christmas movie, I think of a story that can only survive during the Christmas season. With The Nine Lives of Christmas, the plot felt like it didn’t need to belong within the Christmas holiday. Yes, there were Christmas decorations and festivities to be found. But no Christmas specific messages and themes were presented in the narrative. I felt like this exact same story could have been placed in any time of the year and it wouldn’t make a huge difference.

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My overall impression:

I said in this review’s introduction that a lot of Hallmark fans love The Nine Lives of Christmas. After finally seeing this movie for the first time, I can understand why people like it so much! Sure, this film has flaws. But I still found it to be enjoyable. What I like about this movie is how different it felt from Hallmark projects that were released within the past two years. While The Nine Lives of Christmas had story-telling elements that are familiar to consistent movie-watchers of the network, it felt like the film’s creative team made an effort to try something new. This makes me wish that Hallmark could go back to that mindset, where they weren’t afraid to do different things even though they were starting to create their brand’s image. The Nine Lives of Christmas is not my favorite Hallmark Christmas film, as there are other movies that I like more than this one. But I do think it is an overall solid production!

 

Overall score: 8.5 out of 10

 

Have you seen The Nine Lives of Christmas? Which past Hallmark Christmas movie would you like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen Review

So, I was originally going to publish my blog follower dedication review, in honor of receiving 160 followers, today. But, yesterday, I ended up watching the most recent film from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen. Because of this unexpected change of plans, I will publish my blog follower dedication review on December 8th and my review of Christmas at Dollywood on December 10th. I’m still planning on posting my review for Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Happy Holidays Blogathon this weekend. Now that I am talking about Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, this means that I have now reviewed all of Hallmark’s Christmas movies that were inspired by the works of Jane Austen. Two of the films I reviewed in 2018 were Christmas at Pemberley Manor and Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe. While I enjoyed the first movie, I was not a fan of the second one. Since Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen premiered on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and was based on a different Jane Austen story, I was curious to see if this film differed from the previous two entries from Hallmark Channel. I also wanted to see if this movie did a better job at adapting the source material than the other films.

Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen poster
Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen poster created by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Crown Media Family Networks. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=986&NodeID=307&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Sense,%20Sensibility%20and%20Snowmen&IsSeries=False.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: For the most part, I thought the acting was good! I have enjoyed watching Erin Krakow’s acting performances through her various Hallmark projects. In Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, she gave one of the best performances I’ve seen from her collection of Hallmark films! She was very expressive in her role of Ella, displaying various emotions throughout the movie. Erin also brought a likeable personality to her character, allowing me to stay invested in her part of the story. I also enjoyed seeing Luke Macfarlane’s performance in this movie! He did a really good job at portraying the serious and charming nature of his character, Edward. Because of this, it made the character’s transformation during the movie feel believable. It’s always nice to see Kimberley Sustad appear in a Hallmark movie! Her portrayal of Marianne was a delight, providing a different personality to counteract the personality of Erin’s character. This allowed Kimberley’s performance to be memorable and entertaining!

 

The on-screen chemistry: This was the first time that Erin and Luke starred in a Hallmark movie together. Despite this, I thought they had pretty good on-screen chemistry! The interactions between Ella and Edward were very sweet. Because of the acting abilities of Erin and Luke, the development of their on-screen relationship came across as convincing. While watching this film, it felt like these characters and these actors enjoyed each other’s company. This definitely added to their on-screen chemistry! I also thought that Kimberley and Jason McKinnon, who portrayed Edward’s cousin, Brandon, had good on-screen chemistry! Even though their on-screen relationship wasn’t featured in the movie for long, it was nice to see it unfold on-screen.

 

The dynamic between the Dashwood sisters: In Hallmark films, the dynamic between the protagonist and their sibling is not often showcased as an essential part of the story. It is usually featured as part of a subplot or barely explored. For Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, this dynamic between Ella and Marianne Dashwood played a huge role within the overall narrative. Because the personality of these characters was different, it made their interactions very interesting to watch. They were able to use their individual perspectives and experiences to help one another when it came to solving their problems. It was a joy to watch these characters bond, as they created moments that were funny and sweet! This dynamic provided an interesting component to the overall film!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of urgency: Throughout the movie, Ella and her event planning firm were tasked with planning a party in less than two weeks. However, Ella is seen doing everything but plan the party. Sure, we do see her talk to Edward about picking a theme and seating arrangements. But Ella acts like she has a lot of free time on her hands, engaging in activities such as decorating Edward’s home and making gingerbread houses. Because of this lack of urgency, I wasn’t able to take the overarching conflict seriously.

 

No subplots: In any movie, subplots can help a main story move forward and add a sense of intrigue. In Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, the primary plot was the only one that was featured in the movie. While Ella’s sister, Marianne, forms a romantic relationship with Edward’s cousin, she wasn’t given her own story. Meanwhile, the main plot was too simple and straight-forward, leaving little to no room for intrigue. Having one or two subplots would have helped this film gain some interesting story-telling elements.

 

Little resemblance to the Sense and Sensibility story: Last year, when I reviewed Christmas at Pemberley Manor and Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe, I said that the little resemblance to the Pride and Prejudice story was the biggest flaw of both films. Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen also makes this mistake with its weak attempt at bringing the Sense and Sensibility story to life. I’ve never read Sense and Sensibility, so I had to look up the synopsis on the internet. Based on what I read, it seems like the only resemblance to the story that was found in this movie was the names of the protagonist and her sister. Just by watching Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, it felt less like a Jane Austen adaptation and more like a run-on-the-mill, typical Hallmark film.

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My overall impression:

While this movie was better than Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe, I don’t think Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen was better than Christmas at Pemberley Manor. At best, I found it to be just ok. Even though this story was character-driven, that shouldn’t be an excuse to not provide an interesting narrative. I did like the acting and relationships these characters shared. But, at the end of the day, what makes or breaks a movie is how good the story is. In the introduction of my Christmas Under the Stars review, I mentioned that most of Hallmark’s Christmas movies this year are ok or decent. Now, I’ve seen 21 of their films and I still feel the same way. For me, part of the issue is how Hallmark reuses the exact same plots with slight variations. I understand that the network has an image and a reputation to uphold. However, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try to tell new kinds of stories. Since both networks’ ratings are lower this Christmas season than last year, it looks like Hallmark needs to keep that idea in mind.

 

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

 

Do you agree with my thoughts on both of Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups? Are there any Christmas films that have been your favorite this year? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Christmas Town Review

Yes, I know it has been two weeks since I last reviewed a Hallmark movie. I’m also aware that I haven’t been reviewing as many Hallmark Christmas films as I did last year. But, don’t worry, I’ve been trying to watch as many of the 2019 releases from both networks as possible. At the same time, I have been searching for nominees for 2020’s Gold Sally Awards. For now, though, I’m here to present a review for the most recent film I saw from Hallmark Channel, Christmas Town! When I think about this movie, I realize that I didn’t review Candace Cameron Bure’s Christmas project from last year. That’s because I just never got around to writing a review for it. To me, A Shoe Addict’s Christmas was just ok. While it wasn’t one of her worst movies, I didn’t find it to be one of Candace’s best movies either. How did Christmas Town compare to last year’s film! Keep reading if you want to find out!

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

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: What I like about Candace Cameron Bure as an actress is how expressive she is. No matter what role she is given or what happens in the story, Candace always brings a wide range of emotions to her characters. This helped her character, Lauren, appear believable in the film. Candace always has good on-screen chemistry with her co-stars. It is especially the case in Christmas Town! Even though this is Tim Rozon’s first Hallmark movie, he also gave a good acting performance. Throughout the movie, Tim appeared at ease in his role of Travis, giving the impression that he enjoyed what he was doing. His performance seemed natural and believable, allowing his character to be just as expressive as Candace’s character. I also enjoyed the performances of the supporting actors and actresses! Their talents complimented one another and their on-screen interactions were a joy to watch!

 

A new take on a familiar cliché: I’ve said in my list of The Top 10 Worst Clichés from Hallmark Movies that my least favorite cliché is the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown” cliché. This cliché causes the story to feel more predictable than it needs to be. With Christmas Town, however, this cliché was given a new take. Instead of the protagonist being guilted or forced to stay in the small town, Lauren actually wanted to stay in that town on her own free will. In the movie, she voluntarily takes a teaching job in a small town, which allows her to move out of the city. Because of her love for the small town, she finds a way to make a meaningful difference in the community. Her actions feel genuine, which makes it easy to root for this character. Because of these things, it makes the execution of this cliché feel like a breath of fresh air.

 

The discussion of foster children: In my review of Christmas Under the Stars, I mentioned how I liked the discussion of foster parenting that was included in the story. While foster parenting is brought up in Christmas Town, the primary focus is on the discussion of foster children. Not only is a foster child featured in the story, but the protagonist is a former foster child herself. These two characters were able to use their experiences to form a solid friendship. This discussion of foster children was not only a well-written component of the overall story, but it was also handled with a sense of reverence and respect. Outside of this Christmas season, the discussion of foster children is rarely brought up in Hallmark films. I’m glad this movie’s creative team chose to fill a creative void by incorporating this topic into their script.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

The weaker conflicts: In Christmas Town, there were several conflicts that I enjoyed seeing in the story. They were interesting and felt like they flawlessly fit in that world. But these conflicts were weaker than they should have been. This is because they appear to be too easy to solve. The conflicts are also taken care of too quickly. These aspects cause them to take away a sense of intrigue from the movie’s plot. It forces the audience to sit and watch everything unfold on screen instead of letting them try to figure out what will happen next.

 

The “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché: Because of the weaker conflicts, it made the film’s creative team adopt the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché. In Christmas Town’s case, this cliché did not need to exist in the narrative. It didn’t add anything to the story and appeared to be a time waster. Even the character of the protagonist’s ex does not play a significant role in the film’s events. If anything, this creative decision made him look insecure about the future of that relationship. After all is said and done, it just felt like the cliché was placed in the story just because it had to be there.

 

The under-utilization of the letters: Within Christmas Town’s story, the protagonist owns a series of letters written by her late father. The letters themselves were fine, but they should have had a stronger importance in the story. Similar to what I said about the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché, these letters felt like they were included in the movie just for the sake of being there. They didn’t contribute anything to the plot or propel it forward. The letters also did not play a huge role in the protagonist’s decision-making process. If these articles were written out of the story, I don’t think it would make much of a difference.

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My overall impression:

Even though there are Christmas movies from 2019 that I like more than this one, I do think that Christmas Town is a stronger film than A Shoe Addict’s Christmas. What I like about this film is how the creative team purposefully incorporated story elements that are not always found in Hallmark movies. This allowed the story to be memorable and stand out from other titles in this year’s Christmas line-ups. I also liked the acting, as it helped me stay invested in what was happening with the characters. But despite the fact that I did enjoy this film, there were some things that I did not like about it. For me, the weaker conflicts were the biggest flaw of this movie. However, Christmas Town is a sweet film that is perfect for the Christmas season! Before I finish this review, I wanted to let all my readers and followers know that this is my 300th post! Every time I publish 100 posts, I coordinate a special double feature in honor of the accomplishment. That will take place in January of 2020, so stay tuned for that event to occur!

 

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on this year’s Christmas line-ups from Hallmark? Do you have a favorite Christmas film that has been released in 2019? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen