DeceMBER 2022 BREAKDOWN
- 22 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 2 TV series
- 10 foreign films/series
- 9 rewatches
Biggest Disappointment: Love 020
Favorite Discovery: Two Cops
Magpie Murders (2022) – This is a series where you have to pay close attention as it features two mysteries for the price of one. When a famous author dies, his editor investigates his death as well as the disappearance of the last book of his famous detective series. Then there is also the portrayal of the book mystery playing out as if it is real. Lesley Manville is proof that older actresses can be dynamic and successful as she totally owns her role as the editor. She’s a complex character made even more interesting by her imaginary interactions with the detective from the novel. It was very hard to guess who was guilty as most of the characters were ambiguous and morally gray. Very well done.
My Life is Murder Season 3 – I’m happy that Alexa and crew are back with the addition of some new characters. It’s particularly nice to see her brother have an expanded role as well as the introduction of her young niece. Although the mysteries are interesting, it’s the relationships that really keep me watching. This season has seen a change in the palette of the show with lots of bright, almost flourescent 80’s colors being worn by almost every character which is a little jarring and distracting.
My Only Love Song (2017) – Absolutely ridiculous and cheesy and yet, this time travel comedy was so much fun! I laughed out loud so many times at the adventures of a famous actress who finds herself in the Goryeo period thanks to a time traveling van. She is joined by her manager and they meet up with the country’s princess as well as her bodyguard and the man history has recorded as the princess’ husband. Of course, the two time travelers make a big mess out of history. The actors don’t take their characters too seriously. I love how the show blends some of the modern slang and accoutrements into the historical time period. It’s a nonsensical delight.
Two Cops (2017) – I love a good buddy duo and this one between a serious cop and a playful con-man who’s soul occasionally inhabits his body was so much fun. Of course, it helps when they are played by two of my favorites Jo Jung Suk and Kim Seon Ho. They are joined by Hyeri in a love triangle which I didn’t think was needed. As per usual in a K drama, the three have a past connection which they work together to investigate. Hyeri is not an actress who interests me and her reporter character would have been more believable as a platonic character. I loved how cheeky and clever Seon Ho’s con-man is and his chemistry with Jung Suk was outstanding. Jung Suk did a fabulous job portraying two different personalities. I wish they had joined forces sooner in their investigation of the show’s main mystery, especially since there was an expressed time limit for solving the crime. However, the writers did such a great job keeping me guessing with the use of dubious characters and multiple red herrings. The last several episodes were especially tense and exciting with twists and turns and there was a very unexpected reveal that had me in shock. This is one show which was much better than the mediocre reviews I had read.
Love 020 (2016) – My second Chinese series in as many months, which sadly didn’t alter my belief that Kdramas are better. It’s a campus romance which Integrates gaming into the plot and character development in a seamless way. As a non-gamer this aspect of the show really intrigued me. Sadly, any other potential to be a great series was wasted. The main actors were rather wooden and the dialogue is a bit stilted and cliched. The two leads don’t display much personality other than being annoyingly perfect. Their chemistry isn’t much to speak of. In particular the kissing scenes are very awkward as the female lead looks like she’s enduring rather than actively participating. I also struggled to appreciate the very traditional gender roles portrayed. Especially since in the early episodes the heroine is portrayed as strong and clever (particularly in her gaming skills) only to later become subservient to her more genius boyfriend who often treats her like a pet or possession. It’s very disappointing because I really wanted to like this one.
Love & Coffee (2019) – Watching this train wreck of a show makes me feel like a shameful voyeur, but I can’t look away. It’s a disjointed story about a young, timid and naive college student’s relationship with an older, more experienced businessman who claims to have fallen for her at first sight. Literally, within the first fifteen minutes of the show, they meet, he says he’s in love with her, asks her to be his girlfriend and coerces her into sleeping with him. There is little foundation for their very dysfunctional, unequal relationship which is uncomfortable to watch because he looks like he is constantly overwhelming her while she looks like a scared rabbit most of the time. There is little to no plot or character development and the dialogue is repetitive and cheesy. The saving grace of this series is its’ short run time and the beautiful leads.
Can’t Run Away From Love (2021) – Though I’ve not seen many Japanese series, this is the first in which the male lead wasn’t a complete misogynistic jerk. Instead, he’s rather thoughtful, though tortured by his past involvement in the death of his childhood friend. Because of this he does not believe he deserves happiness when he starts falling for his new female employee. I really liked how the heroine and the other supporting characters played against the tropes. She was so selfless, but also human in her support and love for the hero. And their co-workers were such a great little group of friends to them both.
Miss Crow with Mr. Lizard (2021) – This sweet Chinese romance was way too long. I struggled to maintain interest in the middle episodes, despite really liking the characters and their relationships. I fell for the cheery charm of lead actress Xing Fei after watching Put Your Head on My Shoulder. She’s still cute, but a little more serious opposite co-star Jialun Ren whose character is a great balance for hers. As touching as their relationship is, I came to enjoy their best friends and second couple’s scenes even more. It’s like watching flint and tinder spark off each other since she’s an independent career woman with a prejudice against wealthy playboys. I loved watching him try to convince her that he is serious. Cutting the amount of episodes in half with smart editing would have really benefitted this series greatly, since it had a good story along with lovable characters.
Run On (2020) – Everything about this felt offbeat, The dialogue, the characters’ interactions and responses, even way the plot plays out. And yet it still showed great emotional depth in exploring identity, purpose and the impact relationships can have. I found myself liking it despite myself. This is my first time seeing Im Siwan onscreen and his quiet, but childlike innocent hero was so endearing. I especially enjoyed the unwilling friendship that developed between the two female leads, both of whom were wary, blunt and self-protective. In particular I fell hard for Choi Soo Young’s chaebol heiress who had a me against the world mentality. Generally I have a hard time relating to these types of characters but there was something so human and vulnerable in the way Soo Young played her.
Reborn Rich (2022) -What a wild ride! Weaving together multiple plot elements of family betrayal and corporate espionage, recent historical events and a unique form of time travel, this revenge drama kept me guessing the whole way through. Song Joon Ki stars once again as a brilliant schemer which seems to be a consistent type with him in these dramas. But he does it so well. The best scenes are the ones he shares with co-star Lee Sung Min as his character’s grandfather who is the founder of the family conglomerate. They are electric together and that chemistry works as the highlight of the show. On the downside, when they are not on screen together the show loses it’s intensity as well as my interest. I agree with other reviewers that the love line was not really all that interesting and could have been removed without losing anything important. With such a large cast, I did have trouble keeping up with who was who in the first several episodes which also felt slow as all the set up and foundation for the plot was laid. I would have liked to see more of Song Joon Ki’s interaction with his second immediate family even though it wouldn’t have added to the plot, because their few scenes together were a lovely oasis in the middle of all the other family drama. Still despite a few flaws it was utterly addicting. I’ve read some complaints about the ending, but upon reflection felt it brought everything full circle and gave a redemptive perspective to a show about revenge.
Fanletter, Please (2022) – A cute, but average mini-series that explores the pressures and expectations of celebrity through the rekindled relationship of a star actress and a single dad with a sick daughter. The show made great use of it’s four episode length with good plot and character development. Thankfully, the sick child angle was handled with sensitivity and wasn’t used to manipulate viewer emotions.
Dr. Romantic 2 (2020) – Season one was one of my favorite shows this year, so I’m so happy to see most of the core group from Doldam Hospital back on screen again. Master Kim is portrayed as an even more god-like figure than ever, and is still the heart of the hospital. The main antagonist from season one returns as a threat again, although happily he has less screen time as he delegates the undermining of Master Kim to a subordinate, which makes for an interesting character arc for his subordinate. The new romantic leads are good, but can’t match the ones from the previous season simply because those actors are so outstanding. However, I did like seeing their love grow from competitors at med school to reluctant allies to more. Once again the show tackles some major medical issues but gives a little less time to the ethics of the profession. Even though this season didn’t quite match my love of season one, I am still looking forward to season three which will air next year.
Remember the Night (1940) – It’s been a while since I watched this classic and I had forgotten that it takes a while to get going. But once it does, it’s rather sweet. Barbara Stanwyck is luminous as the repeat thief who is bailed out by the prosecutor and invited to his family home for Christmas. These two opposites learn to appreciate the other’s perspectives and experiences. I realized this is one of three Stanwyck holiday films and also one of two of them which give her a scene with a cow (the other is Christmas in Connecticut). Just random observations.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) – Since its’ release, this has become a family favorite that I enjoy watching every year. I actually prefer it to all the adaptations of The Christmas Carol. The settings and cinematography are so rich with lush color and light and of course the message is a meaningful one.
Miracle on 34th Street (1994) – As a classic film fan, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I this is my favorite version of the film. It has a special charm and feels a little less dark and serious. The main actors all give great depictions of their characters, making them feel real and warm. I especially love Mara Wilson as little Susan.
All I Want for Christmas (1991) – An underrated modern Christmas classic with loads of charm. This is one of my mom’s favorites and it’s a cute story of two kids trying to reunite their parents for the holidays. The brother-sister duo is one of the best I’ve seen on screen thanks to endearing performances by young Ethan Embry & Thora Birch. Lauren Bacall has a supporting role as their dry humored grandmother. The NYC setting is beautiful and slightly nostalgic in feeling. It just has so much charm.
The Christmas Candle (2013) – This Max Lucado adaptation tells the tale of a cynical minister asked to restore hope to a town that believes in the power of a miraculous candle. Despite a strong melancholy undertone, there is a warmth and richness to the film. I love that it leaves room to explore doubt, grief and hopelessness in a season which often focuses on the opposite.
While You Were Sleeping (1995) – I never get tired of this modern classic. The family scenes are always my favorite.
The Holiday (2006) – This is a must watch every Christmas for my family. Nancy Meyers really captures the magic of old-fashioned nostalgia in a modern story. Great casting (and unexpected thanks to Jack Black as a romantic lead) really puts this over the top.
Little Women (1994) – I think this is the most charming and cozy adaptation of Alcott’s story. Kirsten Dunst makes a great young Amy.
Little Women (2019) – I don’t often appreciate recent adaptations of old classics, but this one was done well. Although, the fact that it flashes back and forth within the familiar story does make it confusing and hard to follow on the first watch. I love how this version does a better job of giving time to Meg and Amy’s development which helps their love stories feel a bit more palatable. The only mis-step for me is the casting of Timothee Chalamet as Laurie who comes across like a whiny little boy.
Enola Holmes 2 (2022) – Though not quite as good as the original, this sequel is alot of fun and sees the return of almost all the major characters. Enola is still working to establish herself as a legitimate detective out from under her brother’s shadow when she takes on a missing person’s case pro bono. However her case is tied to one her brother is investigating and they end up working together again which is really to the benefit of the film, even if it undercuts Enola’s independence. This means the first half of the movie is slow as it sets things up, but does pick up in the last half once all of our characters come back together. Even though the title features Enola’s name, the film works best as a group effort and not a solo one. I do hope this becomes a series and that the power that be understand that that the entertainment factor comes from Enola AND her group of partners.
Hallmark Movies: (favorites in bold) – After a mostly disappointing year of new holiday premieres from Hallmark, re-watching some old favorites redeemed my holiday entertainment.
A Dickens Holiday, Christmas in Mississippi, Lights Camera Christmas!, Once Upon a Christmas, A Fabled Holiday, Heaven Sent, A Godwink Christmas, Christmas on the Bayou, A Holiday Spectacular, When I Think of Christmas, Trading Christmas, Project Christmas Wish, Check Inn to Christmas, The Gift of Peace, On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, The Most Colorful Time of the Year, My Southern Family Christmas, Next Stop Christmas, A Tale of Two Christmases, A Christmas Cookie Catastrophe, A Gift Wrapped Christmas, Miss Christmas, Christmas With Holly, Snow Bride, Once Upon a Christmas Miracle, A Bramble House Christmas, A Royal Corgi Christmas, Love at the Christmas Table