june 2022 BREAKDOWN
- 25 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 9 new classic films
- 7 re-watches
- 4 TV series
- 3 foreign film
Biggest Disappointment: You For Me, Cross Country Romance
Favorite Discovery: Vincenzo and Top Gun: Maverick
Signora Volpe (2022) – I really liked this brief mini-series about a former British spy who retires to the Italian country side where her sister lives. The mysteries kept me guessing, but it was the people that kept me interested. The relationships with her sister and ex-husband are suitably complicated and the sparks flying between Signora Volpe and the local police detective are pretty sexy. And of course the scenery was delightful. I was so disappointed that this was only three episodes and really hope there are more seasons in the future.
Corner Gas Season 2 – I’m continuing on with my re-watch of this Canadian comedy series and still finding it just as funny as ever.
The Madame Blanc Mysteries (2021) – I enjoyed this cozy mystery. It features a middle aged art expert who relocates to a southern French village to investigate her husband’s sudden death. The setting is pretty and the characters interesting. I really appreciate that the heroine is an average woman.
Nothing Trivial Season 1 – It took me a couple of episodes to appreciate this New Zealand series which centers around a group of friends who gather weekly for quiz pub night. But ultimately the individual characters and their friendships won me over. As someone who enjoys playing Jeopardy, let me tell you the quiz questions are hard!
foreign films & series
Lovestruck in the City (2020) – This is my second Korean drama series starring my crush Ji Chang-wook in as many months. The premise of it being a mock reality show is interesting. I like the close friendship between three of the main characters. But the main romance drove me crazy! The two fall instantly in love, but then part and the reason the female lead refuses to reunite is so frustrating and silly. It’s a lot of angst and not much action happening for most of the episodes. I loved the sassy drunk female side character and wished she had more screen time.
Vincenzo (2021) – I put this Netflix Korean drama off for a while, because I knew it was a major time investment. But I couldn’t resist the lure of a story about a Korean orphan who is a lawyer for the Italian mafia, returning to his home country only to take on corruption there. Does this series have its’ flaws? Absolutely. The run time is indulgent with extra unnecessary scenes. There are so many double-crosses as to become predictable and it’s laughable how often Vincenzo escapes all the traps set for him. The villains rarely have the upper hand and aren’t a true match for our anti-hero. But I don’t care about any of that because this show is fun. Song Joon-ki who plays Vincenzo, co-stars with Jeon Ye-been who is his female counter part Hong Cha-young. The two of them have so much swagger, I was stunned speechless. Vincenzo’s cool, collected demeanor meets its’ match in her crazy antics. In addition, this drama does what K-dramas do well, which is to create a family community out of its’ quirky side characters. The plot development may be questionable, but the character development for our two leads stays interesting. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the villains. I was fascinated by the portrayal of corruption within the country’s corporate and governmental structures since it so closely mirrors today’s reality in most nations. It’s intriguing how Vincenzo and the main villain are two sides of the same coin, both using threats and violence to accomplish their aims. But the villain rages hot, while Vincenzo manages to keep his cool and use his head. Viewing this is not for the faint of heart as there is a lot of blood and death as one would expect with a Mafia consigliere as the main character. I don’t agree with the show’s premise that only evil can drive out evil. But I give it a pass because in its’ own twisted way, there is some redemption to be found in the end. With a high cool factor and entertainment value, I enjoyed almost every minute of Vincenzo.
Our Blues (2022)– This critically acclaimed Kdrama on Netflix has received a lot of praise. It has a large ensemble cast and each one receives special attention in various episodes. The writing is wonderful and addresses emotional real-life issues such as teenage pregnancy, Downs Syndrome, family dysfunction, fractured friendships among other things. One of the major and most interesting of the themes it tackles is the effects and challenges of poverty without sacrificing the humanity of its’ characters. These stories are enacted by an outstanding cast. I really enjoyed certain episodes and relationships but not others. Because the episodes shift around in focus among the various characters, it didn’t always maintain the tension and element of high drama that I’ve seen other Korean series do. There were times it really touched my heartstrings but overall it was a mixed bag for me.
Just This Once (1952) – An inconsequential but cute romantic comedy starring Peter Lawford and Janet Leigh. Leigh ends up assigned as the executor of Lawford’s massive inheritance trust and tries to rein in his extravagant spending. I appreciated how the film also presented how Leigh’s version of frugality can be as detrimental as wasteful spending. This allowed the two characters to really grow individually in a way that balanced each other out.
A Yank at Eton (1942) – In a way, this picture feels a bit like a sequel to Lord Jeff, since it is set in a British school and shares some of the same cast, namely Mickey Rooney and Freddie Bartholomew. It’s an entertaining story about the American Rooney being forced to adapt to life in England after his mother remarries an Englishman. Rooney does a great job portraying the emotions a young man experiencing such a change might go through. I love his relationship with his little sister and his young friend Inky. It shows his tender side. The scene with the injured horse was very difficult to watch. I will watch this one again.
You for Me (1952) – My third Peter Lawford film this month (he had a small role in A Yank at Eton), and by far the least impressive. Yet again, he plays another devil-may care playboy and not a very likable one at that, who gets mixed up with a working-class nurse played by Jane Greer. Gig Young co-stars. A love triangle develops among the three. The plot is silly, the pacing wonky and I just couldn’t seem to care about any of the characters. It’s definitely not any of these actors’ best work and I would not sit through it again.
Babes on Broadway (1941) -I’m finally intentionally working my way through the Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney collaborations. This is my fourth or fifth one and I’m really loving their onscreen chemistry together. It’s so sweet and innocent. My favorite musical numbers were their duet How About You and the Ghost sequence in the theater when they dress up like past characters. The downside to this film is that Rooney really hams it up in certain scenes and also the final musical number which was done completely in black face.
Presenting Lily Mars (1943) – It’s another Judy Garland musical and a rather cute one at that, though the plot is not at all believable. Judy plays a wannabe actress who low-key stalks a successful producer from her hometown for her chance at stardom. I was happily surprised that Van Heflin plays her co-star. I always like seeing him in romantic roles. It was hard for me to believe that he would fall for her innocent ingenue, but I didn’t let that ruin the film for me. My favorite musical number is when Judy mimics a competitor at the supper club. So cute.
Cross-Country Romance (1940) – I’m sorry to say there wasn’t much to like about this little comedy aside from a short run time. Gene Raymond and Wendy Barrie had zero chemistry and their characters were dull. The plot reminded me a lot of the Lucille Ball film Next Time I Marry, which I liked much better.
Lady Be Good (1941) – I remember really liking this the last time I saw it and a second viewing cemented that opinion. It’s fun to watch the songwriting process between the two leads and their hit that shares a name with this film’s title is catchy. This is one of Ann Southern’s better films, and also features Eleanor Powell in a memorable dance number with a dog. Though a few scenes could have been trimmed for a shorter run time, it’s still entertaining.
Our Blushing Brides (1930) – Creaky and dated, this was hard for me to sit through. Joan Crawford stars along with Robert Montgomery in a story about a woman who refuses to sacrifice her virtue, despite her friends encouraging her that it’s the only way to get ahead in life. The dialogue is weak and moralizing, the performances leave much to be desired and the whole thing drags by at a snail’s pace. The only saving graces are the art deco sets, costuming and Anita Page’s sweet performance as the doomed friend.
Babes in Arms (1939) – It’s another Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney film, once again directed by Busby Berkeley. This isn’t bad, but definitely not my favorite of their pairings. What is it with Berkeley’s obsession with blackface dance numbers? The more of these films I watch, the more I realize how talented these two were. Although Berkeley clearly wasn’t able to rein in Rooney’s tendency to go over the top in his performances. He did do some great impressions thought of Lionel Barrymore and Clark Gable, really spot on. The final number of the film felt really unconnected to the rest of the movie.
The Girl Downstairs (1938) – Franchot Tone stars in this inconsequential little comedy about a gentleman who courts a kitchen maid to gain access to his wealthy girlfriend, only to fall for the maid. It’s a bit ridiculous, but also a little fun too.
Beau Geste (1939) -Gary Cooper, Robert Young and Robert Preston star as three brothers who run off to join the French Foreign Legion after being suspected of the theft of a family jewel. Cooper’s easy going style as the eldest brother doesn’t match that of the child actor who plays him in his younger years. But aside from that disparity, this is a great production with wonderful sets, and a really great story about brotherhood and adventure.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022) – All I can say is wow! This is what a movie should be and took me back in time to when going to the movies was a worthwhile experience. Tom Cruise looks incredible and is in amazing shape for his age. I loved the pseudo father-son relationship between him and Rooster, the son of Goose his former wingman. The movie also did a great job paying homage to the original picture while still bringing a fresh new story to the screen.
Heat (1995) – Hmm, I gather this is a classic within its’ genre featuring what is essentially a cops and robbers plot. The talent involved is incredible, and I was continually surprised by the famous faces that kept popping up on the screen even in very small parts. It also transported me back to a time I remember well (the nineties). But it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I don’t mind some violence onscreen, but I need to have at least one character to root for and I didn’t like any of them.
Just Like Heaven (2005) -I like to revisit this old favorite from time to time. It stars Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon and I like their chemistry together. It’s sweet and funny and just a touch odd.
The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) – Though I’m not a big Bill Murray fan, this is one of my favorite comedies which spoofs the spy genre. It has so many great lines and performances by great character actors. It’s silly and never fails to make me laugh. Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted this movie in real life.
Fisherman’s Friends (2019) – I enjoyed this even better the second time around. Based on a true story of a group of Cornish fisherman who become famous singing sea shanties, it captures the allure of their lifestyle, the sea and the town of Port Isaac, which has also been a stand-in for Portwenn on the series Doc Martin. The camaraderie of the men is engaging as is their way of honoring their town and family histories.
The Man From Snowy River (1982) – I was missing this old favorite and decided it was time to see it again. This western is the best thing Australia has given the world and has the best music score of any film I’ve seen. Plus Kirk Douglas gets the chance to play the dual roles of two estranged brothers. The cinematography and settings are beautiful. Basically I love this movie!
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) – I have to thank my high school teacher for introducing me to this movie which has become one of my favorites over time. It stars Anthony Andrews, the stunning Jane Seymour and Ian McKellan as Baroness Orzcy’s famed characters. Even Julian Fellowes makes an appearance. Their performances make this a superb adaptation and the best one out there in my opinion.
Hallmark Movies: (Favorites in bold) Hidden Gems, Mystery 101 Dead Talk, Mystery 101 An Education in Murder, Mystery 101 Killer Timing, Moriah’s Lighthouse, Raise a Glass to Love, Caribbean Summer