Take 3: Rich Kids Review (Youth-Led Film Double Feature Part 1)

Welcome to the first part of my Youth-Led Film Double Feature! This review will contain spoilers and here is the link to the double feature’s introduction:

Introducing My Youth-Led Film Double Feature!

Rich Kids poster
Rich Kids poster created by Lion’s Gate Films and United Artists. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rich_Kids_(film).jpg

1. In your double feature’s introduction, you mentioned the fact both Rich Kids and Over the Edge were released in 1979. Is there anything from this time period that could have influenced these films?

The film, Rich Kids, explores how wealth does not make an individual or a family invincible, as well as how money does not solve every problem. These morals can also be found within the Getty kidnapping case, which was showcased in the movie, All the Money in the World. Wealth could not prevent John Paul Getty III’s parents from divorcing or experiencing personal conflicts. Money doesn’t take away the trauma John Paul Getty III likely dealt with as a result of the kidnapping incident. Because this situation took place on July 10th, 1973, six years before the premiere of Rich Kids, I would guess the creative team behind Rich Kids absorbed these messages, contemplated on their importance, and wove a fictional, dramatic story around them.

 

2. In this introduction, you also mentioned how you originally thought Rich Kids “was a documentary style film about a group of rich kids growing up over a period of time”. Despite being different than what you expected, were you able to find some enjoyment in this film?

Rich Kids is a character-driven character study. When a film’s creative team decides to adopt this kind of story-telling, it’s important they create a cast of characters that the audience wants to spend their time with. Because these characters were well acted and written, it encouraged me to stay invested in their stories and journeys. In my opinion, I think it’s better that Rich Kids wasn’t the story I was expecting. Since this group of characters was smaller, it allowed the audience to not only become familiar with them, but to also truly know them. Had this film been about a group of children over the course of several years, it might have felt like they were competing against each other for attention.

 

3. Do the socio-economics of each film’s world affect the characters or the story?

While there was wealth being flaunted within this film, it didn’t happen as often as I thought it would. Rich Kids’ creative team places the wealth in the story to simply show it exists. But their primary focus is to present their characters as human, flawed, and inexperienced in life. When Franny visits Jamie at his father’s apartment for the first time, she is entranced by the magnificence of its existence. Even though she questions the cost of everything within that environment, her initial reaction is representative of how most people would react when entering a fantastical looking space. In reality, the characters influence the wealth, not the other way around.

 

4. Do you agree or disagree with Siskel and/or Ebert’s views on these films? Why?

In their review of Rich Kids, both Siskel and Ebert agree that the overall film should have kept its focus on the children. I second these opinions, as I found Franny and Jamie’s story to be more interesting than those of the adults. Because the divorce of Franny’s parents was inevitable and because Jamie’s parents were already divorced, there was no sense of intrigue from that part of the script. However, I do disagree with Siskel and Ebert on their views of the adults in this film. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “boobs” (Gene’s words, not mine), but I would say they are uninvolved in the lives of their children. They are so caught up in their own problems and stress, that they easily and quickly lose sight of what is really important.

 

5. When it comes to both films, Siskel and Ebert agreed on their views of the adult characters in each story. Did these characters have any significance within their respective movie?

As I said in answer number four, these adults were so caught up in their own issues, that they lost focus on their most important priorities. This part of the story highlighted the importance of young people having a parent, guardian, or mentor that maintains a healthy amount of involvement in their lives. Because these adults weren’t involved in the lives of their children, both Franny and Jamie lacked the guidance that they desperately needed. They ended up finding guidance and life lessons elsewhere.

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Money image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/bills-and-coins-in-isometric-design_1065328.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

6. Besides having young actors as the leads, do these films share any similarities?

I haven’t seen Over the Edge yet, but based on Siskel and Ebert’s review of that movie, I can confidently say that one similarity between these films is the frustration the young protagonists feel about not being heard or understood by the adults. In one conversation, Franny tells Jamie how they have few rights because of their young ages. This statement makes them feel powerless and limited in their abilities and resources. Both Franny and Jamie are twelve years old, an age when most adolescents want to be seen less as children and hope to achieve a little more independence. Through their behavior and choices, these aspects of growing up are incorporated in Franny and Jamie’s story, as they are trying to form their own identities.

 

7. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?

I don’t have any questions, but I did come up with two thoughts while watching Rich Kids. The first is how I loved the set design of Jamie’s dad’s apartment! From the tropical inspired oasis which is the first room characters encounter to the eccentric and eye-catching media room, these sets were both imaginative and impressively caught on film. My second thought revolves around the psychological well-being of the children. During one conversation, Franny confesses to Jamie that she named her dog after an imaginary world she created in her mind. The more she visits Jamie at his dad’s apartment, the more she uses that space to materialize her imaginary world. Later in the film, Franny shares with Jamie that prior to the start of their friendship, she lost her sister due to medical issues. I wish this script would have left some room to talk about how divorce and even a death in the family can affect a child’s psychological state, especially since Jamie’s stepdad was a psychologist. But I guess there’s only so much you can do in an hour and thirty-six minutes.

 

8. Is there anything about this movie that you liked or didn’t like?

Like I said in answer number two, I thought the characters were well acted and written. Because of these components, it felt like the audience took a glimpse into the lives of real-life people. This script also gave these characters a chance to come across as relatable. As Ebert said in the Rich Kids review, the conversations of the children “have a ring of truth to them”. I feel this way not just with Franny and Jamie’s conversations, but with every person in this project. The characters and their journeys were one of the strongest parts of this film!

 

As for what I didn’t like about this movie, I was not a fan of how Franny’s parents didn’t explore other options before deciding to get a divorce. At one moment in the film, Franny’s father’s lawyer suggests that Franny’s parents attend marriage counseling. They don’t even bother thinking that idea over and choose to treat divorce as the “end all, be all” of their problems. Like I’ve said on more than one occasion, I feel that ending a romantic relationship is a decision that shouldn’t be chosen lightly, especially if children or those who are dependent on the couple are involved. While this story is about how children deal with divorce, I think Franny’s parents should have discussed other options first.

 

9. Is there any aspect of either film that could be seen as relevant today?

An overarching theme that I noticed in this movie was the idea of knowing you’re not alone when dealing with a serious issue. Throughout their relationship, Jamie helps Franny deal with her parents’ inevitable divorce. Because his parents divorced prior to the start of their friendship, Jamie is able to use his experiences to show Franny that she is not the only one who has traveled down that road. They both become a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear for each other. This idea is definitely just as relevant in 2020 as it was in 1979.

 

10. After watching Rich Kids, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?

The biggest takeaway for me is how everyone experiences hardship, no matter who you are or what your economic status is. But as Rafiki from 1994’s The Lion King said, “you can either run from it, or learn from it”. In Rich Kids, Franny and Jamie try to handle their problems the best they realistically can. They do this by relying on one another and providing insight when necessary. Because of this, they are able to temporarily escape their issues and build a lasting friendship.

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Breaking heart image created by Kjpargeter at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/broken-heart-valentine-background_1041991.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: In Name Only Review

One of the reasons why I love participating in blogathons is because it gives me the opportunity to watch films I might have never seen otherwise. In Name Only is a fantastic example! Before signing up for The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon, I had no idea that this film existed. After searching Carole’s filmography on IMDB and discovering the ability to rent the movie, I felt that In Name Only was a good choice for this review. Even though I had heard of Carole Lombard before, I had never seen any of her films. My participation in this particular blogathon gave me the opportunity to finally check out her acting work! Another surprise I discovered was that the film is based on a book! The source material for the project is Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer. Similar to my discovery of the film, I was not aware of this book’s existence before I watched the movie. Maybe in the future, I’ll check this story out! But, for now, let’s check out this review of In Name Only!

In Name Only poster
In Name Only poster created by RKO Radio Pictures. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In_Name_Only.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Like I said in the introduction, this is the first film from Carole’s filmography I’ve ever seen. Despite this, I was impressed with her performance in this film! Her portrayal of Julie Eden showcased an on-screen personality that appeared down-to-earth. Whenever her character was frustrated by the divorce process, her performance became heart-breaking. Carole’s sad demeanor created the opportunity for audience members to sympathize with Julie. Prior to watching In Name Only, the only film from Cary Grant’s filmography I’d seen was The Philadelphia Story. Because that movie was a romantic-comedy, it gave me the chance to see Cary take on a more dramatic role in this picture. Throughout the story, Cary’s character, Alec Walker, embodied the serious and charming nature of a gentlemen. For more sad and heart-breaking moments, his performance was very captivating to watch. A great example is when Alec is staying at the hospital. Since his health is deteriorating, his mental health is also affected. This is portrayed very well by Cary, as he adopts a distant stare and disjointed speech pattern that reflect his character’s state.

 

The on-screen chemistry: I enjoyed watching the on-screen performances of Carole Lombard and Cary Grant! One reason is their on-screen chemistry. Every time they appeared in a scene together, there was always a sense of genuine sweetness between them. This allowed their characters to appear like they truly loved one another. It also makes viewers want to see this on-screen couple resolve their issues. For me, the quality of Carole and Cary’s on-screen chemistry helped me stay invested in their characters and their relationship!

 

How the topic of divorce was handled: In my review of Marriage on the Rocks, I talked about how the movie’s view on divorce made me feel uncomfortable. This was because of the one-sided perspective the movie presented. When it comes to In Name Only, the topic of divorce was handled with maturity and reverence to all the parties involved in the film’s story. While there was an antagonist, this creative choice was meant to show the audience that divorce can sometimes become messy and complicated. Unlike Marriage on the Rocks, In Name Only treats divorce as a realistic yet difficult situation. I’ve never read the book this movie is based on. However, I’m hoping the book handled the subject of divorce as well as the film did.

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When I saw this postcard, I knew it had to make an appearance in this review! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out conflict: I understand the divorce process can be very time-consuming. But within the context of the film’s story, this conflict was drawn-out for the majority of the run-time. It got to the point where I could see audience members becoming just as frustrated as the protagonists were. Now, I’m not sure if this shared frustration was intentional on the screenwriter’s or author’s part. However, I do know that because of this creative choice, it didn’t leave a lot of room for a pay-off.

 

Under-utilized characters: As I was watching this film, I came across some under-utilized characters. Maida’s friend, Suzanne, is just one example. The actress who portrayed this character, Helen Vinson, did a really good job with the role she was given. But her character wasn’t able to do much in the story. This caused Helen to have very little material to work with.

 

Run-time that was a little too long: IMDB says that In Name Only is an hour and thirty-four minutes. However, I feel some minutes could have been shaved off. Had this movie’s run-time been an hour and fifteen or twenty minutes, certain events in the movie could have happened sooner. It also could have gotten rid of scenes that felt like time-wasters. One of these scenes, to give you an example, was when Maida was talking to her in-laws during a car-ride.

Carole Lombard Blogathon banner
The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Vincent from Carole & Co. Image found at https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/announcing-the-carole-lombard-memorial-blogathon/

My overall impression:

Even though In Name Only is the first film of Carole Lombard’s I have seen, it is a film that I did like! There are aspects of the movie that could have made the overall project stronger. However, its merits overshadow them. The biggest highlight is how the story handles the subject of divorce. Throughout the story, I could sense the creative team knew exactly what they were doing. The screenwriting provided a sense of realism to the narrative, giving the characters thoughts and feelings that might emerge from a situation like this. The divorce itself was also taken very seriously. If you’re interested in watching a film about this topic, please pick In Name Only over something like Marriage on the Rocks. As I’ve said before, I feel that starting or ending a romantic relationship is not something that should be taken lightly. In Name Only not only recognizes that, but highlights that through the interactions of the characters.

 

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

 

Have you ever seen Carole Lombard’s movies? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Au revoir les enfants Review + 165 & 170 Follower Thank You

At the beginning of the month, my blog received 165 followers! While I was figuring out which movie I would review, I was creating a new blogging schedule for myself. Several days ago, 18 Cinema Lane received its 170th follower! So, for this blog follower dedication review, I decided to write about one movie while acknowledging both milestones. I chose to talk about a French film called Au revoir les enfants! Foreign films are rarely talked about when it comes to these specific reviews. In fact, the first one I discussed was Vampyr last October. Au revoir les enfants has also been on my DVR since last February. So, I thought these reasons would be a good excuse to finally watch this film! While Vampyr is a French and German production, I have reviewed a French film on this blog before. For Clean Movie Month, I talked about the 1950 project, Les Enfants Terribles. Will my thoughts on Au revoir les enfants be similar to those on the aforementioned French film I reviewed last year? You’ll just have to read this post if you want to find the answer!

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I chose to use this poster for the review because it verifies that I, indeed, watched this film. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Movies that have young actors make up the majority of the cast can be hit-or-miss. In the case of Au revoir les enfants, this aspect worked in the film’s favor! All of the young actors were not only allowed to act their age, but they were able to work alongside other actors within their age group. This made their performances feel genuine and realistic. Speaking of realism, I noticed that all of the character portrayals and the situations showcased in the movie appeared like it came directly from real-life. It gave these elements a sense of authenticity. Because this film is based on a true story, the creative team’s focus on making the characters and situations look and feel believable seemed to be taken very seriously.

 

The historical accuracy: This film takes place in early 1944. Because of this, all of the material elements of the project looked like it came directly from that period in time. The wardrobe of all the characters feature articles of clothing that one would likely find within the mid ‘40s. The architecture of the boarding school shows off the preserved interior and exterior style from an era gone by. Even the finer details of the picture, such as the books, feel like relics of that specific year. While watching this film, I noticed the way the characters spoke also reflected the time period. Whenever subjects related to World War II were brought up, it was done in a very subtle way. Even though this was a period film, I never felt like I was being talked down to or like the movie was treating itself like a history lesson. If anything, I felt like I was watching a moment in time.

 

The presentation of the subtitles: How the subtitles are presented in foreign films is very important. If they can be seen clearly, it allows the audience to better understand what the characters are saying. I liked how the subtitles were showcased in Au revoir les enfants! While all of the text was white, it was presented against backgrounds that were dark in hue. The very first scene in the movie is a great example of this. The station and train itself adopted colors of black and gray. None of the characters in this scene wore bright colors. Because of this creative decision, I never had a difficult time reading the subtitles.

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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 the film:

A weak plot: The more movies I watch, the more I realize that “slice of life” stories aren’t my thing. That’s because I don’t find them to be as intriguing as other cinematic stories. That’s what the majority of Au revoir les enfants is: a “slice of life” story. To me, it didn’t contain as much interest as it could have. It felt like the screenwriter put so much emphasis on the premise of Julien and Jean’s relationship, that there was nothing else to offer in the narrative.

 

A somewhat mis-leading premise: In the synopsis I read for this movie, it said the film was about a Catholic boy and a Jewish boy becoming friends during World War II. However, the friendship aspect of their relationship isn’t portrayed until about the last twenty minutes of the film. Julien and Jean spend most of the movie apart than together. In fact, Julien starts off not liking Jean as a person. Julien does become nicer to Jean as the film progresses. When this does happen, it just makes them seem like acquaintances more than anything.

 

Situations being shown, but not explained: Throughout Au revoir les enfants, there are situations shown on screen that aren’t given explanations. One example is when Julien pokes his hand with a compass. As he is doing this, he tells the classmate sitting next to him how it doesn’t hurt. Not only was this action never explained, but it’s never referenced again in the movie. Julien’s action didn’t seem to serve a purpose for his character development or the overall narrative. Moments like this one happened at several moments in the film and I found myself being frustrating by them.

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Illustration of Paris, France created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/travel”>Travel vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my final thoughts on this film, I want to thank each and every one of the followers! 18 Cinema Lane would not be the success it is today without you. Now, on to my overall impression of Au revoir les enfants! Personally, I thought it was just ok. The movie does have merits that are earned, as well as a plot twist that works. But the overall project could have been stronger. As I mentioned in my review, Au revoir les enfants is based on a true story. It felt like the creative team approached the narrative as respectfully as possible. Because the creation of the movie was handled with a sense of reverence, it allowed the film to have the emotional weight it contained. The realism of the acting and writing gave me a reason to stay invested in what the characters were saying and doing. I’m not often given opportunities to watch and review French films. However, I’m glad I chosen this movie for my latest blog follower dedication review!

 

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on my review? Are there any French films you’d like to see me review? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Marriage on the Rocks Review

When Maddy, from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, announced her 2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon, I was eager to participate! I had reviewed Edward, My Son last February, so I was familiar with who Deborah is as an actress. Originally, I was going to review Black Narcissus. But due to technical difficulties with my DVR, I chose to write about Marriage on the Rocks instead. The idea of a struggling couple working through their problems in Mexico sounded like an interesting concept for a comedy. I was curious to see what effect this particular location would have on the aforementioned couple and how they would be transformed along the way. Also, I haven’t reviewed a comedy in a little while, so I thought it would be a good idea to expand the cinematic horizons of 18 Cinema Lane. Since this is my first blogathon in 2020, let the review for Marriage on the Rocks begin!

Marriage on the Rocks poster
Marriage on the Rocks poster created by A-C Productions, Sinatra Enterprises, and Warner Bros. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/24787/Marriage-on-the-Rocks/#.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: This is the second acting performance of Deborah Kerr’s I have seen (the first was from the movie, Edward, My Son). What I’ve noticed about both performances is how much effort she puts into her roles. Even if the movie itself doesn’t hold up, Deborah still puts every piece of acting talent she has into each of her characters. In her role as Valerie Edwards, she was very expressive with her facial expressions and actions. This added to the memorability of her performance! Marriage on the Rocks is the first movie of Frank Sinatra’s I’ve ever seen. While I am familiar with Frank as a singer, I had never seen any of his acting performances before. The most notable aspect of Frank’s portrayal of Dan Edwards was how at ease he was in this role. His performing experiences related to stage presentations and programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as prior movie experience, seemed to work in his favor when it came to his performance in Marriage on the Rocks! The aforementioned film is also the first time I have seen Caesar Romero act in a movie. I liked his performance because of how lively and energetic it was. It was also consistent throughout the movie, just like the performances from the rest of the cast!

 

Ernie Brewer’s house: The house of Ernie Brewer, portrayed by Dean Martin, was featured in the film on several occasions. Despite the living room being the only shown part of the house, I really liked the architecture within this space! When characters enter the house, they and viewers are greeted by walls and columns of exposed stone. As characters walk into the living room, they will come face-to-face with the room’s most prominent feature: the fire pit in the center of the room. Another fantastic element of this space is the wrap-around deck. While the deck itself is featured in only one scene, it serves the purpose of giving characters and viewers a perfect view of the ocean. Whether this location is a real-life home or a pre-constructed set, it definitely could make almost anyone want those elements as part of their own living space!

 

The opening credits: Sometimes, creative teams will come up with interesting ways to present their film’s opening credits. Marriage on the Rocks is a perfect example of this. Throughout this segment of the movie, stick figure cartoons can be seen next to people’s names and roles within the project. These stick figures were not only given to the cast, but also to the crew. When the director was introduced in the credits, he was given his own stick figure, which presented him sitting in a director’s chair. I found this to be a cute and creative way to grab the audience’s attention before the official start of the film!

2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon banner
The 2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon banner created by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Image found at https://maddylovesherclassicfilms.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/announcing-the-2nd-deborah-kerr-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Comedy that was barely funny: On IMDB, Marriage on the Rocks is classified as a comedy. However, as I was watching this film, I found myself laughing only four times. Like I’ve said before, comedy is subjective. But, for me, I don’t find dysfunctionality to be hilarious. Also, the jokes themselves go on for too long. It feels like the screenwriter was having difficulty finding the punchline. There are also no breaks from the comedy, which made these jokes seem like run-on sentences. Personally, I found this aspect of the film to be an unenjoyable part to my movie-viewing experience.

 

The movie’s view on marriage and divorce: I watch movies to be entertained. While I appreciate a good message/lesson within a cinematic story, that’s not what compels me to watch any particular film. In Marriage on the Rocks, however, the overarching view on marriage and divorce made me feel uncomfortable. I personally feel that starting or ending a romantic relationship should not be taken lightly. This movie would say otherwise, portraying these two aforementioned concepts like they are effortless. Even the way most of the characters talk about marriage and divorce is concerning. One example is how David Edwards sees divorce as a way to manipulate his parents into giving him anything he wants. There were a few characters in this movie whose views were different from the overarching ones the film itself adopts. But, for most of the film, these characters are looked down upon. All the things I talked about made the views of the movie seem one-sided and skewed.

 

Problems that almost never get resolved: While watching Marriage on the Rocks, I could tell the screenwriter was trying to adopt a “comedy of errors” kind of story. But if any screenwriter is going to write a script with this kind of comedy, they need to remember that the errors have to reach a resolution. In this film, the majority of these errors don’t achieve a satisfying solution. In the rare case when one does, other problems arise because of it. The Hallmark movie, Holiday Date, is a great example of how this type of story can be executed well. In the 2019 release, the male and female protagonist experience a series of mishaps while visiting her family for Christmas. Despite this, they always found a solution that made everyone happy. Unfortunately, this never happens in Marriage on the Rocks. If anything, it made the characters’ situations even more complicated.

 

A drawn-out story: According to IMDB, Marriage on the Rocks is an hour and forty-nine minutes. To me, though, it felt like the movie was three hours. The problem here is how drawn-out the story is. This script takes a simple sounding concept and makes a bigger deal out of it than necessary. The narrative of this film could have been either a mini-series or a short film. This would have allowed the necessary plot points to be reached sooner and the script to be tighter. When I look back on it, there were things that happened in this movie just to satisfy the film’s run-time. The ongoing “second honeymoon” joke is a good example of what I’m talking about.

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Colorful travel suitcase image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/beautiful-illustration-of-travel_2686674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I chose to review Marriage on the Rocks, I thought this would be a comedic version of Expecting a Miracle. While I haven’t seen the 2009 released Hallmark film, I’m aware of what the story is about. Unfortunately, Marriage on the Rocks was not even close to what I expected. Yes, there were things about it that I liked. Ernie Brewer’s house is just one example. But, for me, this movie contained more negatives than positives. As I said in my review, the movie’s view on marriage and divorce is one of the biggest missteps this project took. I didn’t find it to be funny or entertaining, just one-sided and out of touch. Later this month, I’ll be reviewing another Frank Sinatra picture called High Society. Hopefully that one will be more enjoyable than Marriage on the Rocks was. Despite the fact it’s only the beginning of the year, I think I found a contender for worst film of 2020.

 

Overall score: 4.7 out of 10

 

Have you seen Marriage on the Rocks? Do you have a favorite film from Deborah Kerr’s filmography? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver Review

Last October, I had planned on reviewing Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver. But, as I talked about in an editorial, Hallmark decided to postpone the movie until January 2020. Now that the beginning of the year has come, it means the film has finally arrived! The most exciting part of this movie appeared to be the use of magic. Also, the idea of a facility that specializes in magic is something that has never been featured in a Hallmark film before. These are the things that made me look forward to this installment! This is now the third movie in the Crossword Mysteries series that I’ve not only watched, but also reviewed. As I said in my reviews for the first two movies, I thought they were ok. But I was always interested in seeing how this series progressed. With a combination of magic and crossword puzzles, I wondered how it could raise the bar for the series. Well, since I recently saw the film, we can finally receive an answer to that question!

By the way, I have a new posting schedule where I will regularly publish articles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays!

Crossword Mysteries Abracadaver poster
Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver 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=Crossword+Mysteries+Abracadaver.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because most of the main cast in this movie has also appeared in the first two entries, it helps maintain the consistency of the acting performances. Another factor that added to these performances was the quality of the cast’s acting talents. Once again, Lacey and Brennan did a really good job with the material they were given. It allowed the versatility of their acting abilities to shine through. They also had good on-screen chemistry with each other and with their co-stars. Speaking of co-stars, I liked watching the performances of the supporting cast! One supporting actor that caught my attention was Steve Belford. In this movie, Steve portrays Reed, a new employee at the New York Sentinel. Despite the fact he’s in the film for a limited amount of time, Steve did a great job at bringing charisma to his role. This helped him create a character that was more memorable than I expected!

 

The Magic Manor: Half of this movie took place at the Magic Manor, a facility that hosts magic classes and magic shows. The most impressive aspect of this location was the architecture and design. The overall structure appeared to be Victorian, featuring impressive woodwork and beautiful stained-glass windows. What also made this location so memorable was the various rooms and hallways featured within the manor’s walls. It elevated the mystery aspect of the story, adding to the suspense and intrigue a plot like this calls for. I always looked forward to seeing this place on screen because of its photogenic qualities. I’m not sure what this facility is in real life, but I’d love to see it appear in another Hallmark production!

 

The editing: For the most part, films on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries have pretty good editing. But Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver had editing that was very well-done. One example was scene transitions. When Tess is on the phone with Logan, there were two scenes featured: Tess and Logan talking on the phone in their separate office spaces. The way these scenes were edited gave them a smooth transition. It also appeared flawless, like the movie itself did not miss a beat. The editing definitely helped make this project visually appealing!

Magician icons set
Image of magic show essentials created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/card”>Card vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The absence of crossword puzzles: In my review of Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder, I talked about how the insignificance of the crossword puzzles was one of the film’s biggest flaws. In Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, crossword puzzles barely make an appearance. This took away a large portion of the series’ identity. Also, there were missed opportunities to use these puzzles as clues for the mystery. Like I said in my review of the previous film, the lack of crossword puzzles makes the film’s creative team see their idea as too niche for sustainability. It is also starting to make me wonder why this series is called “Crossword Mysteries”?

 

Some scenes being drawn-out: About half of the scenes in this film are dialogue heavy. While the dialogue itself was necessary for the story, it made these scenes feel drawn-out. Because of this, it also made the film’s overall pace seem slower than most Hallmark mystery movies. Personally, I think there should have been a balance between action and dialogue heavy scenes. That way, the film’s sense of intrigue would never be in danger of faltering.

 

The “don’t-get-involved” cliché: While this cliché is not always featured in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films, I find that it doesn’t work outside of the first or second movie in a series. This is the case for Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver. Tess’s aunt and Logan constantly tell her not to bother trying to solve the mystery. I understand that they had Tess’s best interests in mind. But these warnings were being spoken after she successfully solved two mysteries. If this series does receive a fourth movie, I hope this cliché is dropped from the story.

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Detective work image created by Photoroyalty at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/investigation-background-design_1041877.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Like I said in the introduction, Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver is the third film in this series that I’ve watched and reviewed. In my opinion, this movie is the strongest of the three! While it does have flaws, the film also has elements that elevate the material. There were even aspects of the story that could help maintain the series’ consistency. In recent years, I’ve noticed that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has taken their films more seriously. They also are more likely to try new things when it comes to story-telling. Things like this make me prefer movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries over those from Hallmark Channel. Even though Hallmark’s main network has made some good films, it seems like they are comfortable telling the kinds of stories that are more “tried-and-true”. Since Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver is the first movie I’m reviewing in 2020, it looks like my year is off to a good start!

 

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

 

Do you like the Crossword Mysteries series? Are there any series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries that you’re looking forward to? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas Review

For my last movie review of 2019, I’m going to talk about the newest film in the When Calls the Heart series, When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas! Since I reviewed last year’s movie, When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing and since I re-cap the show, I thought it would be fitting to keep up the continuity. While I liked the previous movie, I had lower expectations for this year’s project. This was caused by how unappealing the film’s synopsis sounded to me. In a Word on the Street story last month, I discussed how I felt about the synopsis for this movie. To me, it seemed like the screenwriters were running out of ideas and not taking advantage of beautiful story-telling opportunities. It also seemed like they were repeating the same mistakes they made in the previous film. But, like I do for every movie I watch and/or review, I watched When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas with an open mind. I thought that, maybe, the movie could be better than the synopsis made it sound. Was I right or wrong in my guess? We’re about to find out in this review of When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas!

When Calls the Heart -- Home for Christmas poster
When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas 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=When+Calls+the+Heart+Home+for+Christmas.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Like last year’s movie, the acting in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas was one of the strongest elements of the project! Everyone in this cast was talented, bringing their characters to life with a sense of well-roundedness. From newer characters, like Nate’s niece, Allie, to veterans of the show, such as Bill Avery, it was a pleasure to see these characters come back on television. What works in this cast’s favor is how most of the cast members have appeared on the show for at least one season. This helps keep up the consistency of both the performances and the overall narrative. It also shows how comfortable these actors and actresses were in the roles they were given.

 

Learning about backstories through Christmas traditions: At several moments of the movie, the audience got the chance to receive more backstories from some the characters through the sharing of Christmas traditions. With the incorporation of Hope Valley’s Christmas Festival, we learn that one of Lucas’ favorite memories was visiting a German Christmas festival with his parents. Another example is Nate’s Christmas present for Allie. For Christmas, he gets her a charm bracelet. Nate’s sister and Allie’s mom used to have a charm bracelet and would receive a new charm every Christmas. This was an interesting way to learn about these characters. It not only expands the character development, but it also gives the audience story material before the start of the next season.

 

The character interactions: Similar to last year’s film, I liked seeing the character interactions in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas! One of the reasons why is because of the on-screen chemistry between the actors within the cast. But the other reason why I enjoyed watching these interactions was because they felt genuine and thoughtful. A great example is the interaction between Florence and Fiona. In this scene, they give each other Christmas gifts that are telephone related: Florence receives a telephone necklace and Fiona receives an embroidered piece of art about keeping people connected. This was my favorite character interaction because it showed Florence and Fiona putting effort into these gifts as well as the growth of their friendship. It was not only well-acted, but also well-written!

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Christmas Tree with boxes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-tree-out-of-gift-boxes_1448089.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:

Too many plots: There were about eight plots found in When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas. Because the film was only an hour and thirty minutes, there was not enough time for these plots to be fully developed. Instead of lending themselves to an engaging story, they ended up competing against each other to see which one could be the most memorable. What also didn’t help was how almost all of these plots were basic and surface-level. Most of them felt like they could have been featured on any episode of the show, as they seemed ordinary and mundane. The only plot that had any amount of intrigue was Carson and Faith’s story.

 

Under-utilized characters: When a movie or television show has a cast this large, there are bound to be characters that receive more screen-time than others. But in this movie, there are some characters that could have benefitted from having their own story. Henry Gowan is a perfect example of this. Since Henry doesn’t receive his own plot, this gives him very little to do in the movie. It also doesn’t give Martin Cummins, the actor who portrays Henry Gowan, much material to work with as an actor. Jesse and Clara are another good example. They got engaged at the end of season six, so we could have seen them get married during Christmas-time. Instead, Jesse and Clara’s story was reduced to them saving Lucas Bouchard’s reputation. I understand that the show’s creative team wants to save some story material for the upcoming season. But a Christmas wedding could have been an eventful way to end Hallmark Channel’s Christmas line-up.

 

Plot points that don’t make sense: Throughout this film, there were some plots that didn’t make sense. For this part of the review, I’ll give you two examples. The first involves a new character named Walter. He claims to be a struggling traveling salesman, selling his only coat for gas money and not having the funds for a new tire. If Walter is having that much trouble acquiring a steady income, then how he is able to afford a car? Vehicles require constant upkeep in order for them to run smoothly. For Walter to be able to maintain his car’s well-being, he would probably have to sell more belongings of his over a significant period of time. The second example involves Rosemary. After learning about a dilemma related to Hope Valley’s Christmas Festival, Rosemary complains to Lee about Lucas’ poor event planning skills. She then complains about how Lucas should have asked her for help. Ever since her introduction in season one, Rosemary has always been a determined and headstrong woman. No matter what happens, she finds a way to discover a solution to any problem. For Rosemary to not volunteer with any event planning and for her to expect to be asked for anything doesn’t make any sense with her character development.

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My overall impression:

In 2018, I gave a good review to When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing. While I had issues with the film, there were things about it that I liked. With When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas, however, I can’t give it a good review. But I can’t give it a bad review either. At best, I found the movie to be ok. It had its strengths, like the acting and Christmas traditions serving as opportunities for character development. At worst, this film was a rushed “filler” project that tried so hard to say so much, but ended up saying so little. It felt like the creative team behind this show just wanted to get this movie done and over with so they could move on to the next project. If anything, it was less of a movie and more of an extended episode. After watching this film, I’m kind of concerned for the next season. It doesn’t help when the only thing that was shown in the commercial for season seven was Elizabeth looking at both Nate and Lucas. I’m hoping it is better than this movie was, but I’m starting to wonder if the show’s creative team is still passionate about this story?

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

What did you think of this film? Are you looking forward to the next season of When Calls the Heart? Tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Romeo Must Die Review

Before I begin this review, I want to apologize for not publishing this article sooner. I’ve been busy not only preparing for Christmas, but also working on projects that are blog and non-blog related. But I finally found the time to post my review for December’s Genre Grandeur! For this round of the blogathon, the theme is “Shakespeare on Film Movies”. At first, I thought this was going to be a challenge. When I searched for possible titles on the internet, however, I realized that there were plenty of films for me to choose from. Out of all those choices, I picked Romeo Must Die! Over the years, I have discovered that Romeo and Juliet retellings can be hit or miss. While I thought Gnomeo & Juliet was cute, I was not a fan of Romeo + Juliet. When I discovered that Romeo Must Die was a modern adaptation of the famous William Shakespeare story featuring martial arts, it raised my interest in this film. For last month’s Genre Grandeur, I reviewed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. If you read that review, you would remember that I enjoyed the film. One of the reasons why was the martial arts choreography. But just because there are martial arts in Romeo Must Die, does that mean I’ll enjoy it as much as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Thanks for joining me for this review, as we’re now about to answer that question!

Romeo Must Die poster
Romeo Must Die poster created by Silver Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures. Image found at https://www.warnerbros.com/movies/romeo-must-die/.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Last Halloween, I reviewed Queen of the Damned. Aaliyah’s portrayal of Queen Akasha is one of the things I liked about that film. I’m not sure how much acting experience she had prior to being cast in Romeo Must Die. But I was very impressed with her performance! The acting material Aaliyah was given allowed her portrayal of Trish to be versatile and well-rounded. In a scene where she shares a childhood memory involving her brother, I felt sympathy toward Trish and her situation. Before watching Romeo Must Die, I had never seen a movie starring Jet Li. However, I enjoyed seeing his performance in this film! One scene shows his character, Han, being informed of his brother’s death. In that scene, there was so much emotion in his facial expressions and body language, that those things were able to convey a message without the use of dialogue. This whole cast was very talented! Not only were they able to pull off a dramatic performance, some actors even delivered a comedic performance. A great example is Anthony Anderson’s portrayal of Maurice. While there were times when this character could be menacing, there were times when he was hilarious. One of the funniest scenes is when Maurice accidently destroys a CD display.

 

The martial arts choreography: The martial arts sequences in Romeo Must Die brought something special to the project! Because this is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, it helps this version of the story stand out from other cinematic retellings. I wasn’t able to find out who choregraphed these sequences. But whoever they are, they deserve recognition for their hard work and effort! All of the martial arts sequences were choregraphed well. They were fast enough to keep up the film’s pace, but not fast enough to confuse audience members with what is happening on screen. Some of the martial arts were incorporated in very creative ways! One example was when it was used during a football game. Since I haven’t seen something like that before, I thought it was a new and exciting way to see martial arts in film!

 

The modernization of Romeo and Juliet: As I said in the introduction, I’ve seen other modern adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo Must Die’s take on this story was very interesting and made some improvements to the source material. In this movie, the division between the protagonists’ families is given a better and more clear explanation. Business and cultural/racial differences are what creates a separation for these characters. Also, the protagonists, Han and Trish, are aged up. Having them be of adult age actually helps them play a significant contribution to the narrative, allowing them to make an impact on their families and the conflict surrounding them. This is different from the titular characters in William Shakespeare’s story, where they aren’t given much to do because of their youth.

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Martial arts image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/red”>Red vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

What I didn’t like about the film:

No romance for Trish and Han: Romance plays an important role in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In fact, the majority of that story revolves around the relationship of the titular characters. In Romeo Must Die, there was a relationship between the protagonists, Han and Trish. But this relationship was not romantic. This adaptation placed more focus on the division between the rivaling families. Han and Trish’s roles were to solve the mysteries between a series of murders. I understand that the creative team behind Romeo Must Die wanted to present the source material in a new way. But excluding romance takes away an essential part of Romeo and Juliet’s identity.

 

A limited use of martial arts: In my review of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I shared that I didn’t like how the film’s martial arts sequences were featured for a limited amount of time on screen. Romeo Must Die has a similar flaw. The 2000 released project is classified as an action movie, so these sequences had a greater presence on film. But it felt like the martial arts were incorporated at select moments. Like I said in my Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon review, a 50/50 balance was not found. Because the story put more emphasis on the rivaling families’ division, there were more dialogue focused scenes.

 

The character of Roth and his business team: One of the story-points in Romeo Must Die involves the construction of a football stadium. This part of the story introduced the character of Vincent Roth and his business team. I think the actors who portrayed these characters did a good job with the acting material they were given. But the characters themselves were under-utilized. Compared to the other characters in the film, Roth and his team didn’t play as significant of a role as they could have. If anything, it felt like these characters were there for the sake of being there.

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Photo of Oakland, California city created by David Mark at pixabay.com. Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/12019-12019/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=96413″>David Mark</a> from <a href=”https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=96413″>Pixabay</a&gt;. Image found at pixabay.com.

My overall impression:

To review or not to review, that is the question (yes, that Shakespeare reference was intentional). Sure, I’m not going to be the first movie blogger to make that reference. But I probably won’t be the last! Adaptations of William Shakespeare’s works have been around since the beginning of cinema. Whether these adaptations are classical or modern, they prove there are various different ways to approach the source material. Romeo Must Die is a great example of this. Because of the creative team’s perspective on the story, they were able to create a project that had its own identity and added some unique elements to the narrative. Because of this, I found the movie to be one of the better cinematic versions of this story! By making this an action movie and featuring a mystery within the script, it created a sense of intrigue and suspense for the project. It also helped me stay invested in the film. While this movie does have its flaws, it also has strong components that I liked about it. When I learned that Romeo Must Die was a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet with martial arts, I was hoping to, at least, get some enjoyment out of it. After watching it, I can now say this idea was well executed!

 

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

 

Have you ever seen Romeo Must Die? Which adaptation of William Shakespeare’s stories do you like the most? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen