july 2023 BREAKDOWN
- 16 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 13 foreign films/series
- 2 TV series
- 1 re-watch
Biggest Disappointment: Crazy Love
Favorite Discovery: Dr. Romantic 3, The Girl Who Sees Smells
Father Brown Season 10 – Another season of my favorite ecclesiastical detective did not disappoint. Even though the absence of long term character Mrs. McCarthy was a a bit sad, I loved the addition of actress Claudie Blakely as her replacement. I was also thrilled to see the replacement of the the annoying police inspector Mallory with another familiar face. Speaking of familiar faces, it’s always a joy to see Lady Felicia and Father Brown’s nemesis Flambeau return in an episode or two. This continues to be nice, cozy, escapist entertainment.
Harry’s Law (2011) – Kathy Bates headlines as the title character in this legal drama about a successful patent attorney who goes to work as a criminal defense attorney in the Cincinnati ghetto. I love all the various characters on this show, including Harry’s eccentric staff and another successful cheeseball attorney who befriends Harry against her will. The show goes a little preachy sometimes in its’ politics and Harry leans too much on emotional arguments in court instead of truly legal, factual ones. Despite that, the characters and their relationships keep me watching.
Foreign Films & Series
Crazy Love (2022) – I was hoping for a lot more crazy in this dark comedy about a timid secretary who decides to seek revenge against her jerk of a boss after receiving a terminal diagnosis. Instead the emotionally abused heroine has only a couple of moments when she gets angry enough to stand up for her self but spends the rest of the time being meek and subservient. Eventually, the two of them fall in love, but it’s completely unbelievable because he doesn’t actually change his behavior until AFTER they start dating. He remains a toxic person until then, and still resists repentance until after other people also try to wreak their revenge against him, whereby he finally comprehends the consequences of his actions. Most of the comedic opportunity that could have been mined from the situation was wasted. Though I was able to follow the main plot, the writing felt all over the place with multiple characters who serve little purpose and too many potential antagonists. Then everything gets wrapped up neatly with a nice little bow without really showing a progression of the emotional growth of the characters. As much as I wanted to like this it was ultimately disappointing.
Dating in the Kitchen (2020) – Despite imperfections, this is unabashedly romantic, from the loving portrayal of food, to the beautiful cinematography, the music score and finally the love story that develops between the leads. I appreciate how the show doesn’t make the couple’s fifteen year age gap a point of conflict. Despite all their differences (including age), the romantic leads show a mutual respect and acceptance of each other. In fact, some of those differences end up being the strengths in their relationship. Actress Zhao Lusi (with her infectious grin) has great comedic timing and I love the lead actor’s small little micro-expressions and soft intensity which showcase his feelings. All of this is reason enough for me to overlook very choppy editing, a continual introduction of new characters and abandonment of old ones. I especially enjoyed the kitchen scenes in the heroine’s work place. The preparation and presentation of food was like watching art being created.
Dr. Romantic Season 3 (2023) – This is one of my favorite series and I was on pins and needles as soon as the third season was announced, waiting to watch it. I was pretty ticked off when I got a Disney account only to find out I also needed a VPN to watch it there. Thankfully, it showed up on Hulu after all the episodes were aired. I was thrilled by the return of characters that have become like old friends to me and happy to catch up with their lives again. After two seasons of efforts, Master Kim is finally seeing the realization of his dream for a trauma center and it is the center point for most of the plot development this season. I did notice a lack of emphasis on patient stories this season which also meant there weren’t as many opportunities to explore medical ethics. I also missed seeing the doctors gather at their local restaurant hangout. But those are all minor quibbles. Otherwise, I was thrilled at the return of a main character from season one and the fact that the antagonists had better reasons for opposing Master Kim than in previous seasons when they just came across as being perverse due to a personal dislike. There were lots of disasters and internal conflicts that also kept the tension tight and tested the characters. As usual, the writing continues to be great in exploring and developing each character and their relationships to each other. It was rather bemusing to see how often the series showed the doctors doing the hero walk as they rushed off to handle their next emergency. I just love this series and really hope it returns for season four.
Midnight Runners (2017) – This Korean cop buddy film is labeled as a comedy and is highly rated. While I didn’t find it particularly funny, it was both entertaining and inspiring to watch the two police academy students investigate a case that is way over their heads after witnessing a kidnapping. Their sense of responsibility and compassion towards the victim spurred them on through very scary and difficult circumstances. And their choice to do the right thing at the potential cost to themselves really is a beautiful thing to watch.
Devilish Joy (2018) – The plot for this cute little drama is similar to 50 First Dates, in that the hero suffers an injury that affects his short term memory. He wakes up each day without his short term memories. The lead actors who play the hero and heroine are pretty adorable together and I’m a sucker for the story line even if there are some major plot holes and illogical circumstances. The secondary couple with their enemies to lovers dynamic was comedy gold. And I also loved the bromance between the hero and his younger cousin. Unfortunately, as this series continued, the writing was progressively worse, relying on an overuse of tropes and going off on tangents that didn’t make sense and which were left without resolution. The villains were one note characters, who never showed remorse. The only thing that kept me watching until the end were the two romances and the bromance.
Destined To Meet You (2022) – Fluffy and insubstantial, this contract marriage drama where the leads fall in love at first sight doesn’t offer much in the way of story or character development or common sense for that matter. However, being fairly short means it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome either. The two leads have decent chemistry and it’s kind of fun to see the trope flip where a wealthy successful older woman pursues a younger man for once.
First Love (2022) -The slow pace of this Japanese drama tested my patience for a while as my attention was constantly tempted to wander. The title accurately represents the plot which tells the history of two people significantly impacted by their first love and which tells their story in present day as well as flashbacks. It is somewhat bittersweet seeing the comparison of the main couple past and present. In the present they are more subdued and practical and no longer showing the joy and hope of their youth. I struggled a bit rooting for these two people to reunite, mainly because the male lead has a long term girlfriend who had my sympathy after the reconnection with his lost love highlighted his lack of commitment to her. Even more poignant than the exploration of first love was the spotlight on life dreams deferred or surrendered and missed opportunities. The loss of hope and self confidence and the inertia caused by this struck a sad chord in my heart. Despite the very slow pace, every minute of this series feels well thought out and intentional with no moment wasted. Its beautifully filmed and accompanied by a great soundtrack. All of these things combined to make me feel deeply for the characters and their emotional journey. I was unpleasantly surprised by some unexpected nudity which I didn’t feel was at all necessary. But taken as a whole this is a worthwhile watch.
The Girl Who Sees Smells (2015) – A delightful series which mixes the currently favored Korean preference for romance with a murder mystery well. The two leads have fabulous chemistry and play off each other very naturally. With them it’s the small moments and not the grand gestures. I even went back and watched many of their scenes together several times because they were so cute together. The serial killer murder mystery was also very fascinating, even though the killer was revealed fairly early. The mental chess game he plays with the cops and his cool, unruffled responses almost made me root for him. The transitions between the darker aspects of the series and the lighter comedic moments were very well done. At first I wondered how realistic it is to have a main character who can literally see smells, but the way it was incorporated into the show was seamless especially as it helps the heroine assist the cops in their various investigations. There are some flaws here and there, but the leads are so endearing, I was able to ignore those and just enjoy all the great things I just mentioned.
Stove League (2019) – Although sports stories aren’t my first choice, I do love a good underdog story. It was especially intriguing to have the story focus on the people working behind the scenes of a major league baseball team, both in the back office and the players off season. The writers did a great job developing all the various characters and giving them moments to shine. I especially loved the redemptive moments of some people I had written off early in the series. The two lead actors did an exceptional job in their roles as the man brought in to turn the team around and the female operations manager who becomes his “right hand man”. As much as I prefer a good romance, I really appreciate that this show didn’t try to shoehorn that into the plot. It’s nice to see a strong working relationship or friendship between a man and woman on screen. Also, the pacing of this show was perfect, there wasn’t a single moment I was bored or lacked interest in the plot or characters. This is definitely an underrated drama in my book.
See You In My 19th Life (2023) – In some ways I feel like I watched two different shows. The first half was lovely; whimsical and sweet as it set up the love story between a woman who tracks down her loved ones from a previous life wanting to reconnect. I was immediately fascinated with the story and the heroine who acts rather oddly but does so for rational reasons. The flashbacks to her different lives added layers to understanding her character. In a role reversal romance, she is the one pursues and acts as the emotional caretaker of the hero, which was rather refreshing to see. I was also captured by the cinematic beauty of soft colors and lighting. It felt a bit like seeing visual poetry onscreen. If only the show had stuck to this tone, but there is a dramatic shift around episode seven, when the story line goes a bit darker with a mystery about her first life that is affecting her current life. And then to add insult to injury she learns that her desire for connection with previous loved ones actually puts them in danger. The resolution for this issue really bothered me because it detracts from the exploration of what lifetimes of memories have done to her psyche and also negates her overall journey of loneliness. Although the ending wasn’t unhappy, I didn’t especially love it either. Sadly, this one was a mixed bag for me which had the potential to be one I could have really loved.
The King 2 Hearts (2012) – I liked this romantic drama more than expected. Set in an alternate universe where South Korea is a monarchy, the romance between the South Korean king and a North Korean special ops soldier was fairly believable. But I was more fascinated by all the politics between the two nations and the possibilities it portrayed for their divided countries to become one. The depiction first of them participating in a joint military competition, then moving into a marriage between the king and the female soldier show that when individuals get to know each other and put politics aside, the things that divide them are minimal to what they share in common. The military action and political drama in many episodes was really the highlight of the series for me. But the supporting characters also added depth to the story, especially the bond between the joint team of soldiers as well as the king’s honorable captain of the guard who really had a great story arc. The villain is portrayed as a caricature who is hard to take seriously, even though his actions are brutal. However, he is an example of what happens when wealthy individuals or corporations interfere or influence national interests by acting as a shadow government.
My Holo Love (2020) – The plot for this one explores a love triangle between an AI, its’ creator and the woman they are both attached too. It really raises some interesting things to ponder about AI and ethics surrounding it, especially one that has feelings and can connect emotionally with humans. Unfortunately, the drama as a whole fell flat for me. I struggled to say engaged. I also didn’t really buy the romance between the two humans and definitely didn’t find their chemistry convincing.
Fireworks of the Heart (2023) – I’m not sure why this Chinese drama needed forty episodes. There’s so much filler and many lengthy shots of pouting, brooding and sadness in this story of two former lovers who reconnect ten years after her family split them apart. The female lead in particular was pretty mopey and always crying over the hero which got old pretty quickly. However, considering the emotional abuse she grew up with under her controlling, manipulative mother it’s easy to understand, but still. I’ve heard the actor playing the male lead got some flak for character portrayal, but I actually thought he was an honorable, steadfast guy. Plus Yang Yang always generates great chemistry with his co-stars. This series really emphasized the heroism of firefighters and medical professional, even to the point of glorifying them, but I didn’t mind that at all. The best thing about this show is the brotherhood and camaraderie among all the firefighters. It made them feel like real people which emphasized the effects of the dangers they faced in their work.
Mr. Whicher: The Ties That Bind (2014) – I like the Mr. Whicher series starring a former Scotland Yard detective who is now a private investigator. The character comes across unassuming at first, but is actually very good at his job and also compassionate. In this film, he gets involved in a divorce case which leads him into a murder investigation in a small village. There are a lot of moving parts and characters to this plot and I had fun trying to figure it out.
Hallmark Movies: A Valentine’s Match, Farm to Food, Make Me a Match, I Do I Do I Do, Royal Christmas Crush, Love Blossoms, Love Once and Always, Sun Sand & Romance, Signed Sealed Delivered, Signed Sealed Delivered From Paris with Love, Take Me Back for Christmas