August 2023 BREAKDOWN
- 18 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 14 foreign films/series
- 2 TV series
- 1 re-watch
Biggest Disappointment: One Dollar Lawyer
Favorite Discovery: There were so many potential favorites this month, but I’m going with Hidden Love.
Sweet Magnolias Season 3 – Oh the melodrama! I did not enjoy this season as much as previous ones. There are too many characters to follow, many of whom I really don’t have much interest in. Then the writers did the unforgivable by creating a schism among the three women whose friendship is the heart of the show. They completely over-react to some minor incident and spend several episodes mad at each other. I’m not opposed to conflict in our main relationship, but it at least needs to make sense! And then there’s the fact that every character in this show, men included, act like they have a degree in counseling in relationship issues instead of acting like real human beings who don’t have it all figured out.
Harry’s Law Season 2 – Though several of the main characters returned this season, they have moved into a new office space, adding new employees. This change from being a small family style office defending those in need in their neighborhood to a larger one that takes on more high profile clients, really transformed the tone of the show. And not in a good way.
Foreign films & Series
Road Home (2023) -It’s another first love reunion romance which is unashamedly romantic. The main couple reunite fairly quickly and were very lovey dovey which was sweet to watch. The two leads had very natural chemistry together. However, the dialogue in this Chinese drama leaves much to be desired. The main couple rarely have any deep discussions about the things that matter, like their previous break up, or major life decisions. This is partly because the hero is a man of few words anyway, but I can forgive him a bit, because his eyes do all the talking when he looks at his girlfriend. The viewer just has to take for granted that these two understand each other. Despite the fact that the male lead works as a SWAT captain specializing in bomb disposal, the show doesn’t really convey any tension or thrill surrounding his job. The cinematography is a major plus however, with some beautiful snowy scenes, warm, eclectic interiors and beautifully lit kissing scenes.
King the Land (2023) – I really enjoyed this light-hearted, fluffy romance. It was so nice to just watch something where I didn’t have to think too hard, that didn’t take itself too seriously, which made me smile and celebrated love. The girls friendship and their dance parties made me want to be a part of their circle and I was a bit jealous when it expanded to include the three guys. There was also plenty of comic relief which I always appreciate and the antagonist isn’t really evil, just sour and jealous, so even though this is a drama it is low on the drama which I appreciated.
Silent (2022) – A slow, thoughtful Japanese drama, this explores and portrays the experiences of deaf persons in a very compassionate way. I really appreciated how the writers took the time to depict how each deaf person is unique in their experiences and perspectives on living in a hearing world. It also depicts how the friends and family of the deaf are impacted by and respond to their hearing impaired loved ones. The performances by the cast were understated but I felt their emotions in a visceral way. The romance between the two leads was very low key. I loved how each of them took time to really consider and respect each other and their decisions as they wrestled with making their relationship work.
Sh**ting Stars (2022) – Despite average reviews for this rom-com I had a lot of fun watching it. For once, the past connection between the romantic interests is a little more complicated than former lover, friends or enemies. Setting the story within a talent agency and showing the day to day of those who work there (including the stars they represent) was so intriguing to me. It was rather rare and great to see how they all worked together as a team without any of them acting as villains or antagonists to each other. I’ve not seen the lead actor in anything else before, but he really does have an expressive face. Although some of those expressions were a bit exaggerated they were great at conveying his thoughts and feelings. The characterization of him as a star actor who really is a fairly normal even dorky person in real life was unexpected but appreciated. The crackling and at times combative chemistry between the two leads was one of the best parts of the show. The pacing was also well managed and there wasn’t a single moment that I was bored. Even though, the writers unrealistically coupled up almost all of the main characters, I didn’t even mind. All in all, a great experience for me.
Mr. Queen (2020) – I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time! Talented actress Shin Hye Sun stole the show as a historical queen whose body is inhabited by the sole of a modern man. Although I was a bit uncomfortable watching a woman act like a man, a lot of humor is derived from this circumstance. Watching the possessed queen speak in modern language and espousing modern ideals confusing and challenging everyone around her was so much fun. I also enjoyed the hate to love romance that develops between her and the king. Although there were a few moments which almost crossed the line with me, particularly the episode where the drunken queen sleeps with the king thinking he is her lady in waiting. The writing for that felt a bit exploitative. The side characters’ who were on the king and queen’s side also kept things entertaining and interesting. The cast all had great chemistry together, which made it such a pleasure to watch all their scenes together.
Dream (2023) – This underdog story about a disgraced soccer star who becomes the coach for a team of homeless soccer players had a rather slow, uninteresting first half. However, once the team arrives at the international tournament is when everything started coming together. I actually laughed and even cried out loud watching this group of overlooked, underestimated men finally work together in determination as a team to show the world and most importantly themselves, what they are made of. I came away inspired by their attitude and the lesson they taught everyone that winning isn’t the only thing that matters.
Romantics Anonymous (2010) – This French film about two introverts with anxiety issues is just as charmingly romantic as I remembered. The lead actors are great in the awkward moments making them seem very realistic. I have nothing else to add to the full review I’ve already done here.
One Dollar Lawyer (2022) – Ultimately disappointing, this legal comedy is a mess that is all over the place when it comes to plot and character development. Not to mention there is a jarring tonal change about halfway through with a flashback that lasts a couple of episodes. Though I appreciate seeing the hero’s back story the switch from humor and well lit scenes to darker cinematography and tragedy did not work well. I do love the attorney hero’s flair and swagger and thought Namgoong Min did a great job bringing this character to life. His chemistry with his co-stars who also are his co-workers was the best part of this show. I also really got a kick out of the female lead’s mother and would have loved to see her in more scenes.
Hidden Love (2023) -My love for this adorable and sweet first love romance crept on me slowly and surprised me. Netflix has a winner on its’ hands with this Chinese drama about a teenager who falls for her older brother’s best friend. The way their relationship develops is very cute but also respectful of their age difference. Despite being younger, the heroine acts in an emotionally mature and unselfish way, always putting the male lead first, encouraging him and not demanding more than he’s able to give. So, it’s such a joy to watch the hero slowly recognize her love and fall for her too. It is also an unexpected pleasure to witness the loving and open family dynamic of the heroine’s family which also encompasses the male lead who really needs that stability and safety net. The bickering devotion she has with her older brother adds some wonderful humor and their relationship may even outshine the romance. The thing that surprises me most is how much depth and warmth is conveyed in the writing, the cinematography and the character portrayals. So much so, that this series will be one I revisit often.
Do You Like Brahms? (2020) – As someone who studied piano for ten years, I’m a sucker for any show that focuses on music which is what drew me to this series. Beautifully filmed, this story of two introverted musicians who form a bond while wrestling with the struggles of their music studies and career is full of emotional undercurrents. There is a simple elegance to the story and the characters as well as the cinematography. The classical pieces played only enhance this feeling. Unfortunately, I started to lose interest a little over halfway through. The main and supporting characters were all a little too introspective that I struggled to connect with them. Their lack of communication was extremely frustrating to watch as was their inability to speak up for themselves. The latter episodes were an excess of sad faces and eyes welled with tears that just went on too long for me. However, the show’s examination of passion versus talent was very thoughtfully explored.
Cunning Single Lady (2014) – Despite very positive reader reviews, this divorce romance comedy fell flat for me. My pet peeve is when the main conflict(s) stems from not communicating and/or miscommunication which is the case here. If the two leads had just had honest conversations during their marriage and after it, I wouldn’t have been so frustrated with them. Not to mention, I also found their lack of understanding and respect for each other appalling considering how much they really loved each other to start with. This also made me feel like the main characters lacked depth. Aside from the heroine’s best friend who was so caring and supportive, none of the other supporting characters were all that likable and the heroine’s family was so bad I cringed every time they appeared on screen. It’s really a shame, because with better character and story development this could have been funny as well as had something meaningful to say about love and divorce.
My Fated Boy (2021) – I’m learning that I don’t mind age gap romances if done well, but I struggle more to accept those where the female is significantly older than then man, like this one. However putting aside my prejudice, this one came fairly close to being acceptable for me. I think it helped that the two of them grew up together and had developed a real trust and understanding between them before things took a romantic turn. I also appreciated the balanced portrayal of the heroine as a strong independent career woman who also desires love. The relationship she shares with her two close girlfriends who also are trying to maintain a work-life balance was so appreciated and one I can really relate to. Then there is the lead couples’ parents whose close friendship is of long-standing and also the catalyst behind the main romance. Even though the writing doesn’t have great depth, I just love the way it celebrates healthy relationship, even when that portrayal leans more towards the light and fluffy side.
Yesterday Once More (2023) – Having been impressed with the lead actor in the Chinese series Lighter & Princess, I gave this fantasy romance a shot. It’s not bad, but everything about it is a bit underwhelming. The acting is good, but subdued. The story is a bit Groundhog Day in that that male lead has several chances to re-live the same day in the attempts to save his girlfriend from death. So it has potential to be really interesting, but somehow failed to hook me in to the emotional bonds and development of the characters. I really wanted to be more impressed with this one than I was.
Make Me Believe (2023) – It’s been a while since I watched any Turkish movies, and this rom-com was fairly enjoyable if not memorable. The two meddling grandmothers who try to set up their grandchildren so they can reconcile their differences, was the best thing about this film. I even wish they had more screen time together, because they were a hoot! I always enjoy love stories that start out with bickering before becoming more and the two leads do this well. Although the fact that the viewer is never privy to their past relationship makes it hard to connect with the antipathy they have for each other or to really celebrate when they finally work through their emotional baggage. But really the star of this show is the beautiful Turkish scenery, most of which is beach front. It makes me want to start planning a trip.
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning (2023) – Another entertaining entry in this series. Although the cast is showing their age, it’s great to see them working together again, providing humor, thrills and high octane action and stunts. Making a sentient AI the villain is not cutting edge, but still added a twist to the usual story. I loved how this series continues to pay homage to past films through its’ character remembrances and returns. I do have to wonder though, why it is always killing off its’ female characters.
Personally Yours (2000) – Though it is clearly a made for TV movie, the overall quality of this family film is pretty good. Valerie Bertinelli stars as one half of a divorced couple who begin to re-think their relationship after their kids set up the father in a dating magazine. The children act like regular kids without being whiny and obnoxious and its’ clear that the parents are still in love with each other, but struggle to reconcile their different interests and goals. I would watch this again.
Hallmark: Witness to Murder, A Lifelong Love, Wedding Every Weekend, Making Waves, Love Come Softly, Season to Love, Love Under the Stars, Signed Sealed Delivered From the Heart, Raise A Glass To Love, Love Strikes Twice, The Sweetest Heart, The Sweeter Side of Life, A Safari Romance