August 2022 Quickie Reviews

August 2022 BREAKDOWN
  • 22 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 1 new classic films
  • 11 re-watches
  • 4 TV series
  • 7 foreign film

Biggest Disappointment: Maisie Was a Lady

Favorite Discovery: Oh My Venus

Television Series:

Brokenwood Mysteries Season 8 – I love this New Zealand crime drama and its characters, so I was thrilled to see them all return for a new season. Now that Gina has finally caught the hint that Mike is uninterested in her, it’s been entertaining to see her befriend the unwilling Kristen.

Corner Gas Season 3 – As this is an episodic comedy with not much continuity from episode to episode, there isn’t much more to say as I continue my re-watch of this Canadian show. Other than, these characters continue to tickle my funny bone.

Virgin River Season 4 – After last season’s craziness and unnecessary drama, I was about ready to give up on this show. Thankfully, the writers reined in their tendency to go over the top with conflict and catastrophes this season. I’m still struggling to ship Brady and Brie as their relationship has dsyfunction written all over it. And I still find Hope very selfish and annoying. Preacher’s character is one of my favorites, but it seems as if he get short shrift on this show. Despite some of these complaints, I do enjoy this show and Jack and Mel’s relationship is at the heart of that. Thanks to some surprising cliffhangers I will be tuning in to see what happens next.

Darby & Joan (2022) – It’s so refreshing to see a show that features older people as the leads. Greta Sacchi stars in this light mystery about a British woman who goes to New Zealand to investigate her husband’s mysterious death with the help of a local retired detective. They way their friendship develops is so unique and yet credible. The episodic mysteries as well as the over-arching one kept me guessing as well. I’m very much looking forward to the next season.

Foreign Films & Series

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? (2018) – I’m just realizing that my newer affinity for K-drama series may be related to the dearth of really good, clean rom-coms in my life.  Man, do I miss Nora Ephron! Anyway, this is another office romance between a working class girl and her rich boss. What makes this one fun though is that he falls for her first and pursues her and also the way the script flips the familiar tropes. It’s pretty darn cute, but almost too much so that at times it veers into cheesy and saccharine. This is my second series starring actress Park Min-Young and I realized that I find her performances a bit average. This show retained my interest up to the point where the mystery of the two leads past was revealed. But once that point was reached, the show suffered from a decline in momentum, despite how adorable the romance was.

Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017) – A strong chemistry and love story between the main couple as well as a unique plot about a pint sized heroine with superpower strength makes up for all the other things about this drama that are lacking. This is my third series starring Park Bo-young and she is seriously A-DOR-A-BLE, but is well matched by the squee-worthy reactions of her male lead Park Hyung-sik. Otherwise, I felt the episodes were uneven, switching back and forth between light and happy and the dark sub-plot about a psychotic serial kidnapper. The jokes about the male lead’s ambiguous sexuality made me very uncomfortable and I could barely stand to watch the scenes with the heroine’s emotionally abusive mother. Even the love triangle was not all that well done. But none of that matters because the two Parks together just make me forget everything else that doesn’t work.

My Annoying Brother (2016) -This film had high ratings and since I had recently seen both male leads in Kdrama series, it piqued my interest. The story about two estranged brothers who reconnect when the older con-artist is granted parole to take care of his younger blind brother is very touching. The performances were good and I was crying by the end of the picture. I loved the development of the older brother, especially as he begins by being so unlikable and untrustworthy. However, even though this captured my emotions, I felt like the plot didn’t spend enough time exploring the past history between the brothers to give the viewer a good understanding of their estrangement so that the impact of their reconciliation isn’t as deep as it could be. Still it was worth my time.

Descendants of the Sun (2016) – Overall I really liked this popular series, despite some weaknesses, like heavy-handed music cues, and the need to suspend my disbelief over some illogical time lines and plot points. Since I loved Vincenzo, I knew I had to watch one of Song Joong-ki’s equally popular dramas, and he did not disappoint. He has amazing screen presence and magnetism. Having seen his co-star (and ex-wife) Song Hye-kyo in another drama, I just can’t really warm up to her, despite her delicate beauty. Although I do think she did a good job with her character here, showing her growth from a by the books doctor to one who learns to compromise when things are shaded outside of black and white lines. I thought her struggle to accept her feelings and then her relationship with a special forces soldier was especially realistic and relatable. I also really loved the bromance between our two male leads, the comparisons made between being a soldier and being a doctor and how both have similar goals while using very different methods.

Tale of the Nine Tailed (2020) -Some Youtube clips of Kim Bum from this series caught my eye and sold me on this series. And he was definitely the best part about the show despite playing a supporting role as the mischievous younger brother of a former mountain god. The main focus of the series which was the doomed romance between the main leads fell a bit flat for me. Considering it was supposed to be epic enough to span centuries and involve sacrifice and faithfulness,  the chemistry felt more like a platonic love. I started getting bored by the last couple of episodes, but hung in there until the end due to the complex and intriguing relationship between the brothers as played by Kim Bum and Lee Dong Wook. I also really appreciated the aspect of found/created family that flowed through the narrative.  It was a good show, but probably not one that I will remember well.

Oh My Venus (2016) –  This series may feature one of the most heart-warming romances I’ve seen yet from a Kdrama. Probably thanks to the chemistry and talent of So Ji Sub and Shin Min A who are just so natural in their interactions together as a former beauty who blackmails a secretive celebrity trainer (who is also the heir to a conglomerate) into helping her get back in shape after a bad breakup. Though it does include weight loss the focus of the show as well as that of the characters is in being healthy for health’s sake not just for appearances. The female lead is inspiring in her self- confidence and lack of vanity.  And it’s nice to see a portrayal of a talented wealthy guy as someone who struggles with the previous lack of nurturing love and who is able to look past outward appearances. The way he and his friends adopt Shin Min A is all kinds of cute as is her habit of mothering them. I didn’t really care that much about the relationship between the ex-boyfriend and ex-friend, but it is was very sad how misunderstanding and differing perspectives caused a rift in the ladies friendship. I really could watch this one again if only to revel in all the thoughtful, sweet and mature love story moments between our leads.

My Love From Another Star (2013) – Jun Ji-Yun and Kim Soo Hyun star in this very successful and popular series about a movie star who falls from grace. She ends up falling for her next door neighbor who just happens to be a centuries old alien about to return to his home star. I’ve never seen either of these actors in anything before and was so impressed with our female lead who knocks it out of the park with her hilarious performance, full of physical comedy.  She gives so much nuance and depth to a character who could so easily be stereotyped, letting us see the vanity and arrogance as well as the insecurity and vulnerability. The love story was very sweet, but my practical side was constantly skeptical of their ability to make a relationship work long term. And I know I’m in the minority here, but I really believe that the second male lead would have been a better choice for her long term. Kudos to the actor who was able to show the growth and maturity in her long time admirer.   I didn’t care at all for the villain who was played so over the top that I couldn’t take him seriously despite how evil he is. I get tired of this exaggerated sense of conflict when there is so much of that already present in everyday life. Despite the dangers, there were so many laugh out loud moments in these episodes; my favorite being when the heroine gets stuck in a sleeping bag and ends up wriggling around like a big green worm.  Overall the comedy and performance of the lead actress made this a memorable watch for me.

Classics

Maisie Was a Lady (1941) – I’m still working my way through the Maisie series (in no particular order) and this is the third one I’ve seen. I didn’t like it as much as the original Maisie film, mostly because Maisie’s crassness is in such great contrast to the well-mannered wealthy people she works for. But she still has that heart of gold that desires to help others. Lew Ayres unfortunately plays another drunken heir and his supposed romance with Maisie is almost non-existent until the last second when all of a sudden the two are in love. What? I know I’m watching these out of order, but the lack of continuity, particularly in her romances really makes it hard for me to care about the men in these films.

Hold That Kiss (1938) – The premise of this picture, about two people who mistake the other for being wealthy and therefore pursue a romance felt like it would lend itself to some great comedy. But within a couple of minutes into the film, I got a sense of deja-vu, only to eventually realize, I had seen it before. This finally convinced that Maureen O’Sullivan’s films are completely forgettable. I can’t tell you how many of hers I’ve seen, but I can never remember anything about them once I’m done. Which is a shame, because I like her. Anyway, after seeing this one again the only thing that really sticks out to me is how much I despise her gambler brother, who is selfish, greedy and puts his family at risk because of his addiction. The rest is just a blur.

Whirlpool (1934) -I’ve been wanting to re-watch this Jean Arthur for a long time as I had a very good impression of it. In re-visiting it, it wasn’t as good as I remembered, but I still enjoy it, mainly because it is a tender and sweet father-daughter story and I’m always a sucker for those. Jack Holt has a great starring role as Arthur’s sacrificial but criminal father and their scenes together make this worth watching.

Post 1980’s

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this film and I still love it as much as ever. The characters are so well-drawn, the story remains interesting and the setting is beautiful.

Redeeming Love (2022) – I saw this in the theater earlier this year and loved it, but it didn’t stand up as well upon a re-watch. Maybe because the excitement of finally seeing a memorable book adapted to film was already fulfilled or maybe it was just the big screen experience. I still liked it a lot though and still think for the most part the story, which was inspired by the Biblical prophet Hosea, is utterly unique in it’s portrayal of the complete redemptive power of love. This time around I was struck by the gorgeous setting and the way the cinematography captured that beauty on the screen.

One Night With the King (2006) – Sticking with biblical adaptations, this movie about Esther is one I haven’t seen in ages. It’s definitely not as good as I remembered, probably due to a lower budget which is clearly reflected in the quality of the production. The main actors are a little cheesy in their roles. But again for me, that doesn’t detract from the impact of the story.

The Lake House (2006) – I know most prefer Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in Speed, but I’m partial to this pairing. This is a remake of a very successful Korean film. I’ve seen both and like this one best thanks to Bullock and Reeves, although I must say, Bullock could have been given a more attractive hair style and costumes. I never can make sense of the timing in a plot centered around different time lines but it doesn’t take away from my sense of enjoyment.

Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) – My mom mentioned how many sad things happen in this movie which I had never noticed before. But there are a lot of missed opportunities, misunderstandings and even tragedy, often thanks to the heroine’s head-strong personality. I can’t entirely like Bathsheba Everdene as that heroine and yet there is much to admire about her too. Mainly, the reason I keep rewatching this is Matthias Schoenaert’s portrayal of the long-suffering, loyal Gabriel Oak. What a great hero! I also really love the rich tones of the cinematography.

Miss Congeniality (2000) – I had forgotten how genuinely funny this Sandra Bullock feature is. It’s clever but silly and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bullock’s portrayal of a dedicated FBI agent is a bit crass in the beginning, but thankfully that doesn’t last.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) – It’s been a long while since I’ve seen this version and it didn’t hold up as well for me as I remembered. Though I still like it. Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins is the highlight for me in a film full of great talent. I’m not fond of how grubby certain scenes and characters appear compared to other more polished adaptations but I suppose it’s more true to life. I love all the outdoor scenes which make me just want to camp outside for the rest of my life.

The Inheritance (1997) – For being a television production, I had forgotten how well done and wonderful this movie is. It is adapted from a Louisa May Alcott story about a companion to a wealthy family whose place with them is threatened thanks to time and accusations. It’s rather refreshing how they all treat her like one of the family despite the fact that she is an employee. Of course she is a saint, so how could they help but love her. I really can’t do this justice, but if you ever get a chance to watch it, don’t miss out on this endearing, lovely film.

Hallmark Movies: Christmas in Toyland, Big Sky River, Sandra Brown’s White Hot, Dating the Delaneys, Groundswell, Romance in Style

Book Review -Norma Shearer: A Biography by Gavin Lambert

Norma Shearer has long been a subject of interest for me.  I am an ardent admirer of her work, particularly since she successfully made the transition from silent pictures to become a film star in sound films, a feat many others couldn’t accomplish.

Then there is of course my fascination with the mythos behind Norma’s marriage to MGM wunderkind Irving Thalberg. She benefitted from this relationship but also had to fight for her place, not only has his partner but for the roles he didn’t think she could play.  I’ve also always wanted to know more about her life post Thalberg and MGM.

Thankfully, I finally had the chance to read the biography written by Gavin Lambert who was a screenwriter, novelist and who also wrote biographies on  Alla Nazimova and Natalie Wood. Lambert was able to meet Norma several times before she passed away, interviewed her son and some of her friends and was also granted access to personal papers owned by MGM, all of which help add personal knowledge and details that are vitally necessary in his tribute to a woman who rarely shared or even hinted at the inner Norma Shearer. Continue reading “Book Review -Norma Shearer: A Biography by Gavin Lambert”

July 2022 Quickie Reviews

july 2022 BREAKDOWN
  • 28 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 7 re-watches
  • 7 foreign film
  • 5 new classic films
  • 4 TV series

Biggest Disappointment: Hotel Portofino

Favorite Discovery: Well this is hard to choose, since I enjoyed almost all of the K-dramas I watched this month, but I think Doom At Your Service will remain one of the more memorable. Ooh, I also really loved Mr. Malcolm’s List. It was so nice to see a good period rom-com in the theater again! Continue reading “July 2022 Quickie Reviews”

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Would Like to See Adapted for Film

Today’s Topic: Freebie

Hosted by: That Artsy Reader Girl

I know the classic debate about whether a book or its’ film adaptation is an eternal one and I can understand why. However, despite that, I’m always on board to see books I’ve enjoyed as films, even when they don’t live up to my expectations. There is something about the visual aspect of seeing a good story and familiar characters on screen that thrills me. So for this week’s freebie, I’m sharing some of my more recent reads that I would love to see on the big screen. Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Would Like to See Adapted for Film”

Book Review – Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel by Allan R Ellenberger

Apart from hardcore classic film fans, actress Miriam Hopkins is not often  mentioned, which is a great shame in my opinion. She was an electric screen presence who achieved her greatest film success during the Pre-Code era. As a fan of her work, I’ve always wanted to know more about her and after eyeballing her biography for several years, finally made the time.

Though I’ve never encountered any of Allan R Ellenberger’s work before, he has written a handful of books on other film celebrities. Using multiple source materials he fleshes out a full-bodied portrait of the actress that has been sorely needed. Right away he sets the tone for his subject in his title choice, naming Miriam the Hollywood rebel that she was. Allanberger paints a portrait of a cunningly intelligent, often appealing woman whose independence and determination helped her succeed in a difficult business while also occasionally alienating people along the way. Continue reading “Book Review – Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel by Allan R Ellenberger”