Take 3: Christmas Under the Stars Review

So far, I’ve seen nine of Hallmark’s Christmas films from this year. To me, most of them have ranged from ok to decent, with a few standouts. Since I haven’t reviewed a Christmas movie from Hallmark Channel yet, I decided to talk about one of the network’s more recent pictures, Christmas Under the Stars! This film was one of my most anticipated of the season. Jesse Metcalfe and Autumn Reeser reuniting as co-leads was one of my reasons why. I really enjoyed their first movie together, A Country Wedding, especially since they had good on-screen chemistry. Jesse and Autumn have never starred in a Christmas movie together, so I thought this would help make Christmas Under the Stars an interesting project.

Christmas Under the Stars poster
Christmas Under the Stars 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=Christmas+Under+the+Stars.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Christmas Under the Stars had a solid cast! I enjoyed seeing each actor’s performance immensely, as they brought the best of what they had to offer, talent wise, to their roles. One example is how Jesse Metcalfe brings more emotionality to his portrayal of Nick than I expected. At some dramatic moments, it looked like Jesse was about to cry. Because he stars on a television show that features a variety of situations, it helps prepare Jesse for roles that require a certain amount of versatility. Clarke Peters is another example of how talented this cast is. His portrayal of Clem was very endearing, making this character easy to root for. Clarke also appeared to have good camaraderie with his co-stars. Speaking of camaraderie, what worked in this cast’s favor was the on-screen chemistry and interactions between the characters. These encounters felt believable, like they had come directly from real life.

 

The business side of Christmas tree lots: When Christmas tree lots are featured in Hallmark movies, they are either on screen for a short amount of time or the business aspect of them gets glossed over. In this movie, however, the story allows the business side of Christmas tree lots to be explored. It provides a unique perspective that is educational and intriguing for the audience. This also adds something that most Hallmark movies don’t incorporate. More often than not, I say that Hallmark needs to take more creative risks and think outside the box. The interesting way that a Christmas tree lot was showcased in this film is a good example of this.

 

The discussion of foster parenting: If a single parent is included in a Hallmark movie, that character’s relationship status is usually caused by divorce or becoming a widow/widower. Autumn Reeser’s character, Julie, is a single parent because she chose to be a foster parent. Even though this discussion of foster parenting was very brief, it represented a family dynamic that is rarely seen in Hallmark productions. It also provided an interesting component to Julie’s backstory. Because Julie adopted her foster child, Matt, it makes Christmas Under the Stars the second 2019 Hallmark Christmas film to include adoption in their respective film’s narrative.

 

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

What I didn’t like the film:

A semi-misleading synopsis: While I liked this film’s story, I felt the synopsis bent the truth to a certain extent. One example is the basic premise, where Nick loses his job. This idea reminded me of a movie I reviewed last year called Waffle Street. In that film, the protagonist not only loses his job, but the event was catastrophic on his life. The protagonist in Christmas Under the Stars didn’t have the same experience. Yes, Nick did lose his job. But he was still able to keep his high-rise penthouse apartment and his vintage Porsche. Another example is Julie’s occupation. When I was led to believe that she was an astronomer, I was so excited to see this profession incorporated into a Hallmark story. However, Julie’s job ended up being a science teacher. While this is an important career, the astronomy aspect was overshadowed.

 

The protagonists spending so little time together: Jesse and Autumn had good on-screen chemistry. What helped was them starring in 2015’s A Country Wedding together. But the difference between this movie and Christmas Under the Stars is how little time the protagonists spend with each other in the latter. Nick and Julie do become a couple, because that’s how Hallmark movies work. But when they eventually end up together, their union doesn’t feel earned. That’s because there was no build-up leading up to that part of their relationship. What also doesn’t help was how they barely identify the other person as a potential love interest. I understand that the screenwriter wanted to try something different. But, in this case, it didn’t work in the film’s favor.

 

An under-utilized subplot: In the film, Autumn’s character is trying to help a student who is always late to class. When this subplot was first introduced, I thought it would play an interesting role in the overall story. Since this is a Christmas film, the subplot had potential to be impactful and uplifting. But as the movie went on, it became too simplistic and was resolved way too easily. Because this subplot was competing with other story-lines, it felt more forgettable than it should have. This resulted in the subplot being under-utilized.

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Christmas card image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-card-with-watercolor-mistletoe-decoration_965555.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

My overall impression:

Before watching this film, I was highly anticipating Christmas Under the Stars. This was a film that I thought I was going to fall in love with. While I liked the movie, it probably won’t become one of my favorite Christmas films from this year. Sure, it was good. The film had its strengths, such as the cast and some of the topics that were incorporated in the project. But the movie had flaws that prevented it from being great. Christmas Under the Stars is certainly one of the stronger picks from Hallmark’s Christmas line-up, as it is one of the network’s more memorable presentations. The creative team behind the film did a good job with the material they were given. It’ll be interesting to see what the quality of the rest of Hallmark’s Christmas films looks like.

 

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

 

What do you think of Hallmark’s Christmas line-ups so far? Are there any movies that you are fond of? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: I Never Sang for My Father Review (A Month Without the Code — #2)

So, I was, originally, not going to participate in the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon. This is because I already signed up for three other blogathons that are scheduled for August. But, when I discovered that there would be prizes involved, I was in it to win it! Since I’m also a participant in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code Blogathon, I will be incorporating the films I review for the Summer Under the Stars blogathon into my roster for the aforementioned blogathon. That way, I can help the Brannan sisters promote their message and try my best to win Kristen and Samantha’s blogathon! When I was looking through Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) roster of films, I came across the movie, I Never Sang for My Father. It’s one that I had heard of, but had never seen. Before seeing this film, I was not familiar with who Melvyn Douglas was as an actor. So, I did some research on TCM’s website. The first thing I noticed was that he was a Broadway actor prior to appearing in films. This made me wonder if any of his on-stage talents were carried over to the screen. Keep reading my review of 1970’s I Never Sang for My Father in order to find out!

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I was going to use this film’s poster from Wikipedia, but I decided to take a screenshot of this poster instead. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I’ve said in the introduction, I was not familiar with Melvyn Douglas before watching I Never Sang for My Father. This means that this is the first time I have ever seen him act. Despite this, I was very impressed with his performance in this film! His portrayal of Tom Garrison contained so much depth and emotion, that it was captivating to watch. He definitely stole the show in this movie! The other actors and actresses in I Never Sang for My Father brought a sense of realism to their performance, just like Melvyn did. One of them is Estelle Parsons, who portrays Gene’s sister, Alice. Whether it was the look in her eyes or the inflection of her voice, she always expressed her character’s concern and care with believability. Even though she wasn’t on screen for very long, she made a memorable impression with her performance!

 

Dynamics between the characters: Because every actor portrayed their characters with such realism, the interactions and dynamics between the characters were interesting to watch. Every time these characters communicated or spent time with each other, I always wondered what was about to happen next. That’s because it reflected how conversations, sometimes, work in real life. When it comes to interacting with someone, we can’t always predict how things will turn out. This was captured well in the film through the dynamics of the characters!

 

The messages and themes: Within this film, there were several messages and themes that are just as relevant today as they were in the early ‘70s. One of them was the care and well-being of elderly relatives. After their mother dies, Gene and Alice try to decide how to take care of their father. Several options are discussed, such as a live-in nurse and a nursing home. The way these ideas were expressed came across very realistically, like the situations themselves had come directly from real life. This made the interactions between the characters that much more interesting.

Summer Under the Stars banner
Summer Under the Stars Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Journeys in Classic Film and Samantha from Musings of a Classic Film Addict. Image found at https://journeysinclassicfilm.com/2019/07/08/the-2019-tcm-summer-under-the-stars-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The run-time: I Never Sang for My Father has a run-time of one hour and thirty-two minutes. But the movie itself felt like it was two plus hours. This is because some scenes were drawn out longer than they needed to be. One example is when Tom Garrison reads a letter to his children. It seems like scenes like this one were as long as they were for the sake of satisfying the run-time. But it was already at a reasonable length of one hour and thirty-two minutes. Another aspect of the film that seemed to satisfy the run-time was unnecessary subplots. The part of the story about Gene’s affair really didn’t seem to lead anywhere. It made me think that the narrative would have improved if that part had been omitted.

 

Telling, but not showing: In almost any cinematic story, an effective way to persuade an audience is by verbally and visually presenting an idea. In I Never Sang for My Father, there were many cases where ideas about Tom Garrison were verbally expressed. However, there was no visual evidence to support these claims. When Gene stated that he was physically abused by his father, the behaviors and actions of Tom Garrison that were shown on-screen didn’t show him being physically abusive toward anyone. If anything, the things that were said about Tom sounded like hearsay that couldn’t always be taken seriously.

 

An over-exaggerated relationship: A significant part of this story is about the strained relationship between Tom and Gene Garrison. The film’s synopsis makes their relationship seem worse than it really is. Sure, it isn’t pleasant. But it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. Throughout the film, Tom comes across as a lonely senior citizen who just wants someone to talk to. Meanwhile, Gene is presented as, simply, annoyed by how often his father speaks. I feel this is the result of the screen-writing. Both Gene and Melvyn did the best they could with the material they were given. But, for characters and their relationships, they have to be well acted and written.

A Month Without the Code banner
A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode65/.

My overall impression:

Like I said in the introduction, I Never Sang for My Father is a movie that I’d heard of, but had never seen. I thought that the story would be deep and thought-provoking. But, now that I have seen the movie, I, honestly, think it’s just ok. The story itself was more straight forward than I had expected. I also thought that the plot was weaker than it could have been. However, one of the better parts of the film was, definitely, the acting! Melvyn Douglas’ performance was a highlight, bringing his character to life in such a captivating way. I’m glad that I gave I Never Sang for My Father a chance, as I was able to introduce myself to new actors and films! With several changes, this movie could have been approved by the Breen Code. These changes would be the following:

 

  • At the beginning of the movie, there is a couple that can be seen kissing passionately. Either the man or woman in the relationship would need to turn their head in order to block the kiss or the kiss itself would have to be cut shorter when it comes to length of time.

 

  • There are several instances when foul or suggestive language is used by the characters. One constant example is whenever someone swears. These words would need to be rewritten, with the screen-writer choosing words that are more appropriate.

 

  • As I mentioned in my review, there is a subplot about Gene having an affair. This part of the story would either get omitted or would be rewritten to make this relationship come across in a more subtle way. Any references to sex would be removed or rewritten to be as subtle in presentation as possible.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

Have you been keeping up with Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under the Stars” marathon? Which day of the marathon are you excited for? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The results of the 1st Annual Gold Sally Awards have finally arrived!

Earlier this February, I started the Gold Sally Awards as my way of celebrating 18 Cinema Lane’s first anniversary. These awards were created to be interactive for all my readers and followers. After several months and voting polls, it’s finally time to reveal the winners of the very first Gold Sally Awards! Instead of just listing the names of the winning actors and movies, I’ve created scrapbook pages that showcase photos of these winners. The pages are Christmas themed to represent the 10th anniversary of Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” movie line-up. Before this celebration begins, I want to say thank you to everyone who supported the Gold Sally Awards by voting in the polls or liking the posts. Because this became a successful experience, I will definitely continue to host these awards next year! Now it’s time to announce this year’s winners!

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Scrapbook page and screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Best Movie and Best Story: Northern Lights of Christmas

Best On-Screen Couple: Aimee Teegarden and Brett Dalton – Once Upon a Christmas Miracle

Best Actress: Alicia Witt – Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane

Best Actor: Colin Ferguson – Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane

Best Supporting Actress: Rebecca Staab – Christmas Bells are Ringing

Best Supporting Actor: Mark Humphrey — Christmas Bells are Ringing

Best Ensemble: Marrying Father Christmas

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Scrapbook page and screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Hallmark Channel

Best Movie: Pearl in Paradise and Love, of Course (first tie in Gold Sally Awards history)

Best Story: Love, of Course

Best On-Screen Couple: Rukiya Bernard and Dewshane Williams – One Winter Weekend

Best Actress: Nikki DeLoach – Truly, Madly, Sweetly

Best Actor: Mark Deklin – Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa

Best Supporting Actress: Rukiya Bernard – One Winter Weekend

Best Supporting Actor: Preston Vanderslice – Cooking with Love

Best Ensemble: It’s Christmas, Eve

Hand holding trophy
Hand holding gold trophy image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Hallmark Star of the Year: Paul Greene

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Star on red carpet image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

 

Announcing the Gold Sally Awards’ Hallmark Star of the Year!

This is it; the final division of the First Annual Gold Sally Awards! When I first introduced the Gold Sally Awards back in January, I provided a brief explanation of what the Hallmark Star of the Year is. Now that the time has come for this division to begin, a more thorough explanation is needed. What makes a Hallmark star a “Hallmark Star”? Sure, it can mean a person that appears in a Hallmark movie. But I feel it has to be something more than that. The Hallmark Star of the Year Award is an attempt to answer this question. There are so many people that make Hallmark what it is. However, some of these people don’t always get the recognition they deserve. As I’ve also mentioned, this division is the most interactive category of the Gold Sally Awards. This is true, as you get to decide who will be crowned the first ever Hallmark Star of the Year! Now I will provide more details as to how you can participate!

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Star on red carpet image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

Who is eligible for a nomination?

In this division, voters are allowed to choose one nominee per person. The people that would be eligible for this award are:

 

  • Former and current Hallmark stars
  • Hallmark Hall of Fame alumni
  • Members from the business side of Hallmark
  • Directors, producers, screen-writers, etc. of Hallmark projects
  • Authors of adapted Hallmark productions
  • Team members from Home & Family
  • Animals that have appeared in Hallmark affiliated programs (ex: kittens from the Kitten Bowl)

 

When deciding on who to nominate, I would kindly encourage you to choose someone who is currently living. The only reason why I suggest this is in the event that your nominee was to visit this blog, I would want them to see how their participation in the Hallmark community has made an impact on Hallmark’s audience/fans.

 

How do I nominate someone for the Hallmark Star of the Year Award?

It’s a very simply process! All you have to do is write a brief, but thorough explanation for why your chosen nominee is worthy of receiving this title. Here is a template for how to set up your nomination:

 

Name: (This is pretty self-explanatory)

Connection to Hallmark: (This is where you can say how your nominee is affiliated with Hallmark. If your nominee has worked on more than one Hallmark project, name the most recent project of theirs.)

Nomination: (This is where you get to explain why your nominee should receive the title of Hallmark Star of the Year! For advice on how to create your nomination, consider the letters in the word Star:

 

S – Has your nominee participated in any community service opportunities? Have they performed a selfless act that you admired?

T – Do you admire your nominee’s talent? Do you believe that your nominee’s talent gets overshadowed or receives the right amount of attention?

A – Has your nominee accomplished something great? Have they earned an achievement that you wish more people knew about?

R – Do you feel that your nominee is under-rated? Do you think that your nominee has received a good amount of recognition?)

 

Where do I put my vote?

Like the previous voting categories, you can place your vote in the comment section of this post.

 

How long will this division last?

Voting for the Hallmark Star of the Year Award will begin today, May 11th, and end on May 21st.

 

I can’t wait to see who you’ve nominated for the Hallmark Star of the Year Award! Happy voting!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen