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!
Endeavour Season 8 – This popular series has become progressively darker in tone and theme in recent years as it plumbs the depths of its’ title character’s psyche. It’s lovely to see the return of all the familiar characters, though I hate that the season is so short at only 3 episodes. I’m disappointed there is much less screen time for Chief Superintendent Bright and surprised by the hints of a potential relationship between Joan and DS Strange. I’m not a fan of self-destruction so it’s hard to watch the dark places this season takes Detective Morse and I hope that before the series ends, they intend to balance all that out with a little light. I’m still loving the pseudo father-son relationship between Morse and his boss Thursday which I believe is the heart of the show. On a final note, after eight seasons of watching this series, I finally bought the beautiful theme song.
Hotel Portofino (2022) – Visually stunning, this British series is set on the Italian coast pre-WWII with gorgeous costumes, scenery and sets. Sadly, I really wasn’t a fan of the story line and wasn’t able to get all that invested in the characters. For me, this was a beautiful but empty mess of a show.
Nothing Trivial Season 2 – This season gets even more interesting as our trivia gang of friends get even more mixed up in each other’s lives and those lives get even more complicated. I’m enjoying getting to know these characters better, although I could really do without the casual attitude towards sex, particularly as it pertains to cheating and adultery. Mac’s ex-wife Jo makes my blood pressure rise in anger every time she shows up on the screen. She’s so coolly manipulative. I like seeing Brian and Emma’s relationship further develop and his character growth continue as a by product.
The Good Karma Hospital Season 4 – I’m never thrilled when a show shifts any focus from the core characters to supporting ones, which happens a bit this season, thanks to AJ and Dr. Varma’s absences as well as Ruby’s brief disappearance to care for her father. But I really love the two new additions to the show and the hospital. It was also a pleasure to see some real emotional progress for Dr. Fonseca and her bar-owning beau. And I was thrilled at the reaction by many of the main leads to Dr. Varma’s return. It appears, he really has changed, at least a little bit, because he took all their recriminations without offense and made a real effort to make amends with Ruby. I can’t wait to see what next season brings.
Foreign Films & Series
Romance is a Bonus Book (2019) – After a couple more intense and serious Kdramas, I was ready for something fun and light and this more than fit the bill. It was all kinds of sweet and adorable, from the characters to the plot. The story about two long time friends who end up working together and find love was enhanced by the workplace interactions of the publishing firm where they both work. I LOVED seeing the process of how books are made and all the supporting characters were so interesting. I appreciated that the love triangle (or quadrangle) didn’t drag out too long and that the show kept things fairly light despite incorporating some serious moments and themes. The main couple was so cute together and I liked that it explored the dynamics of a younger man being in love with a woman who has always considered him a younger brother. If this was a confection, it would be the cherry on top.
Oh My Ghost (2015) – Very popular upon it’s release, it took me several episodes to get into this lovable Korean drama, in which a lively ghost possesses the body of a shy girl in order to resolve her “grudge”. For the most part the story is played for laughs and charm, but there are some darker elements involving how the ghost died. For the first several episodes, I found the personalities of the girl and the ghost just too extreme, which frustrated me. But I’m glad I stuck with it. The celebrity chef that they both fall in love with was so endearing as he swung between arrogance and insecurity. This has a very talented cast and is currently available on Amazon Prime.
Seducing Mr. Perfect (2006) – I’d had my eye on this cross-cultural romantic film for a while. Set in South Korea, the plot revolves around a Korean woman whose romantic life is a mess and who gets off on the wrong foot with her American boss. He agrees to coach her on how to attract men. It sounds a little sleazy, but is kinda cute. The female lead is a bit of a doormat but also so relatable. Korean-American actor Daniel Henney is her hot boss which makes for a unique dialogue experience since he understands Korean but only speaks English. So all his lines are in English, while all hers are in Korean. This was streaming on one of the lesser platforms and the picture quality wasn’t the best.
Business Proposal (2022) – Another day, another cute romantic Kdrama, Quirky and fun, this office romance drama kept me entertained. But even better than the romance between the two main characters, were all the supporting characters and their relationships. I loved the secondary leads most of all, and their love story was sweet, minus their first sexual encounter, which bothered me because the woman was too drunk to remember it. Aside from that, the two girls were friendship goals, they were so loving and supportive of each other. And our male heir’s grandpa added some great humor, thanks to his own obsession with kdramas and his drama queen behavior. This show embraced all the stereotypes, but did it very well. And although the ending was happy I was disappointed by the one year time jump and all the challenges thrown at the couples last minute.
100 Days My Prince (2018) – Another day, another cute Kdrama. I appreciate a good fish out of water story and this one definitely does that element well with it’s story about a crown prince who lives as a commoner after losing his memory. I loved how he still retained his regal instincts and prejudices and the fact that he had a hard time adapting added a lot of funny moments to the show. The romance was sweet and as usual with many Kdramas, the two had a past connection, albeit one that was more significant to him than her. This story also has political elements which kept me on the edge of my seat even though I did enjoy the humorous and romantic parts more. The side plot about the heroine’s brother just about broke my heart, especially since he did terrible things for good reasons. I also really loved seeing Kim Seon Ho in a supporting role as a friend to both the crown prince and the heroine. He is just too adorable.
Doom at Your Service (2021) – Though this Kdrama has it’s flaws, the premise totally hooked me. A dying woman enters into a contract with the entity Doom and the two end up falling in love, knowing there is no way for their relationship to last. Park Bo-young and Seo In-Guk give fabulous characterizations as the leads and their chemistry is off the charts. This is the second series I’ve seen Park Bo-young in after also watching Oh My Ghost this month and she is growing on me fast. There were some massive plot holes, and I didn’t agree with some of the show’s philosophies about life, death and the supernatural. Also, there was a sub-plot involving secondary characters and a love triangle which didn’t work at all. The love triangle that is. The secondary characters, I liked individually. However, the portrayal of family and friendships was touching, as was the way in which each of the characters dealt with the knowledge of a loved one dying. It was a lot of fun watching Doom become more human due to his interactions with the heroine and her people. The younger brother, who I couldn’t stand initially, was developed so well, that he became one of my favorite characters. Even though I’ve seen better written shows, this is one that will remain memorable to me.
Healer (2014) – I’ve been wanting to watch this one ever since I fell hard for Ji Chang-wook as a romantic action hero in the drama The K2. This one has a little bit of everything, action, suspense, drama, romance, comedy and more but it grew on me slowly. There are so many little details that it is easy to miss one here or there, but it also means I was thinking about each episode long after it ended. I really loved the development of the three main characters as well as watching their relationships grow. The romance between Ji Chang-wook and Park Min-young’s characters was both sweet and meaningful. But the more I think of it, the more I believe that Yoo Ji-tae’s role as the third lead and the link between past and present was my favorite. He was much more opaque as a character and therefore kept me guessing the most. Despite some dark and intense elements, the show manages to keep a lighter tone thanks to the music score. But I’m struck once again by how many of these Kdramas feature corporate and government corruption. I was a little disappointed that some of the emotional payoffs happened offscreen at the end. There were some conversations between characters that I was really looking forward to witnessing, but the show didn’t allow us to see. Overall, this one was a lot of fun to watch.
The Spoilers (1942) – This is my second time through this John Wayne film and though I like it, it seems to be missing something I can’t quite put my finger on. Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott join Wayne in this movie about a group of “spoilers” who bend the law to legally take over successful mine claims. Dietrich looks stunning as a saloon owner who catches the eye of both men. Her gorgeous costumes only enhance her appeal. Her character Cherry, really is the strongest of the bunch, even next to Wayne and Randolph who honestly seem superfluous next to her.
The Tender Trap (1955) – I remember enjoying this drama about a theater producer womanizer who gets caught in the “trap” after falling in love with an innocent ingenue. And I like it even more upon this second viewing. Frank Sinatra is good as our main character, but is almost upstaged by co-stars David Wayne and Celeste Holm, playing his married best friend and the best of the women he is chasing. Honestly Wayne is fabulous and the perfect counter-balance as a man questioning his successful marriage while vicariously witnessing the greener grass on the other side through Sinatra’s playboy lifestyle. Debbie Reynolds is the woman who catches Sinatra and the only unbelievable part of the show. I don’t know if it’s an issue of casting or the way she plays the character, but there is just no way, she could win a man like that. It’s very hard to credibly portray an ingenue taming a playboy and she is definitely not able to do it. Otherwise, this is a great film which also has great set design.
Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937) – I’m still working my way through the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland films and this was their first showing together. The plot is very different from their musicals, in that Rooney plays a cocky jockey and Garland is a friend at the boarding house where he lives. Garland gets a good amount of screen time but is shafted in character development. When Rooney keeps his performance under control, as he does here, he proves he was a really fine dramatic actor. This is one of the better roles I’ve seen him play and a pre-cursor to his part in National Velvet. Ronald Sinclair actually plays the lead role here as the rich boy who hires Rooney. Though he performs competently, it’s clear he was a look alike stand in for Freddie Bartholomew who was first intended for the role. Veteran stage actress Sophie Tucker gets some of the best (and funniest) lines. This was well worth my time.
Brief Moment (1933) – One of Carole Lombard’s lesser films, I’ve always thought it was underrated. The film itself is average as are the other actors, but the plot about a nightclub singer who is mistaken for a gold-digger when she marries her wealthy boyfriend only to become a wife who encourages her husband to grow up and get a job, is unique. And of course, Lombard gives a moving performance with so much sincerity and pathos, that she just about makes me cry.
Lady Luck (1946) – I’m learning that I like seeing Robert Young in darker, more ambiguous roles like he is here as a man in love who is trying to give up his gambling success for his new wife who abhors it. This film had some unexpected plot twists that kept things interesting. I got a real kick out of the group of older gamblers that were trying to act as Cupid to bring the lovebirds back together.
Alias Boston Blackie (1942) – I have a soft spot for Chester Morris, so gave this crime drama/comedy a shot. It’s nothing special, but is amusing. Morris is a reformed criminal who unwittingly finds himself in the crosshairs of the police, but manages to stay one step ahead of them while solving the mystery of what really happened. The fact that it moves at a brisk pace and doesn’t take itself too seriously means, I might be tempted to watch it again.
Bridal Suite (1939) – If not for the MGM gloss and excellent cast, this romantic comedy would have been painful to sit through. Robert Young stars as a spoiled heir who falls in love with a working girl while abroad in Europe. The plot is a mess and the romance between the leads is unbelievable. I’m not a fan of Young in roles like this.
Fearless Fagan (1952) – I doubt that there is another film with a plot like this one about a young soldier who must find a home for his pet lion. But truth is stranger than fiction, because it is based on a true story. It’s actually a rather cute, sweet story about a man’s love for his pet. Thankfully, the film respects that bond without making too much fun of it.
Mr. Malcolm’s List (2022) – It’s so nice to have movies I want to see in the theater again. This period drama is derivative of Jane Austen, but that didn’t bother me. Nor did the culturally diverse cast. Frieda Pinto is wonderful as a poor young woman whose best friend uses her in a scheme to humiliate a rich young man who had rejected her. The cinematography was beautiful and there were some good comic moments. Some of the plot points and resolutions were not credible, but overall I really liked this one and will watch it again.
Marry Me (2022) – I didn’t expect much going into this Jennifer Lopez rom-com, but was pleasantly surprised. The story was a bit far-fetched, a famous singer marries a complete stranger as a publicity stunt and then decides to try to make the marriage work. Owen Wilson joins Lopez as the average man she marries and manages to make him very likable. The two have some sweet interactions, but their chemistry feels more like siblings than lovers. Still I appreciated some of the questions that are explored, such as the cult of celebrity, social media relevance etc. The best thing about this movie though was Sarah Silverman who plays Wilson’s friend and also acts as comic relief.
The Lost City (2022) – I love a good rom-com, so of course I was thrilled to see the return of Sandra Bullock in one of my favorite genres. If you haven’t already seen the trailer, Bullock is a romance artist, whose Fabio-like cover model (played by Channing Tatum) comes to her rescue when she is kidnapped. While amusing with some genuinely funny moments, I found this one was good, but not great. I didn’t find the romance believable and just felt the overall film was lacking something. Bullock seemed as if she didn’t really enjoy her part at all.
The Young Victoria (2009) – I had forgotten what an excellent movie this is. The casting, costumes, direction, plot and dialogue are all outstanding. This is one of Emily Blunt’s earliest starring roles and she is both grave and playful as the young queen whose life is depicted from just before her ascension to the throne, through her early years of reigning, to her marriage and first pregnancy. I won’t wait so long to watch this again.
Little Women (2019) – I’ve rarely met a Little Women film I didn’t like, but have decided upon a re-watch that this is my favorite of them all. It feels the most true to life and the least theatrical of all the adaptations. I also think it has the best (and most extensive) portrayal of Amy and her relationship with Laurie. I especially love all the family scenes at the March home with all the sisters talking over each other, whether arguing or in excitement. My one complaint is that Timothée Chalamet’s Laurie doesn’t feel believable in the adult stage. He just looks like a teenage boy playing grown up. This one is bittersweet for me, because it is the last movie I saw at the theater with my family before my dad passed, so I was a bit emotional watching it.
No Clue (2013) – My mom and I ran across this spy spoof comedy and decided to give it a try, since it stars Canadian comedian Brent Butts whose tv series Corner Gas we’ve been watching. Butt plays a private investigator who is hired by a woman with a shady motive, played by Amy Smart. It was silly but entertaining and had a few laugh out loud moments. It definitely felt like a made for tv film, but one that was well done.
The Lucky One (2012) – I hadn’t seen a Nicholas Sparks adapted movie in a while and this was the only one available for free so… I do like it, though probably more for the cast including Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling and Blythe Danner than for anything else. Although the story about a soldier who tracks down the woman who’s picture he found at a battle site, is kind of sweet. Efron doesn’t get much opportunity to play anything other than silent and reserved, but he has presence.
Persuasion (2022) – I know most reviews are not favorable towards this latest Austen adaptation and I understand why. However, I liked it. Yes, it was a more modern take while still being set in Austen’s time, however, I thought it was rather cheeky and fun. My biggest disappointment was the casting and portrayal of Captain Wentworth. But I loved this version’s interpretation of self-absorbed youngest sister Mary and thought Henry Goulding as the Elliot cousin was a highlight! I will confess, I still haven’t seen an adaptation of Persuasion that I can claim as a favorite.
Yesterday (2019) – Every time I see this, I’m reminded of how much I love this Beatles tribute movie. Aside from Lily James hair and wardrobe as the love interest, everything else about it is perfection. It utilizes the Beatles music in a unique and quirky story that explores the perks and pitfalls of celebrity status as well as the value of truth and love. I’ve previously written a full review of this movie if you want to know more of my thoughts.
Hallmark Movies: Matching Hearts, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Truth Be Told, The Valley of Light, Campfire Christmas, My Grown-Up Christmas List