june 2023 BREAKDOWN
- 13 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 7 foreign films/series
- 3 re-watches
- 1 TV series
- 1 classic film
Biggest Disappointment: True to Love, Rams
Favorite Discovery: Extraordinary Attorney Woo
Endeavour Season 9 (2023) – I was both anticipating and dreading this final season. The writers did a good job wrapping up loose ends and I was relieved that most of the reasons for the team breaking up were logical and not tragic. The fans finally get one good scene of Endeavour and Joan together after years of waiting and I loved the final sequence tying the young Endeavour with the older Morse. The final wrap up for the Blenheim Vale case felt fairly underwhelming after such a big build up. I really despised what they did with one of my favorite characters, who had always been a person of integrity but whose love and loyalty cause him to take an action completely out of character. Overall though this was a good send off for a really great show.
FOREIGN FILMS & SERIES
Remember: War of the Son (2015) -A story about fathers and sons, is anchored by three strong performances from the male leads. The hero, played by Yoo Seung Ho works hard to vindicate his father after he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, while the psychotic villain who has trouble controlling his anger and believes himself to be above the law only fears his father’s disapproval. In between these two is a morally ambiguous anti-hero struggling to maintain his integrity while not wanting to betray his pseudo dad. It’s a fascinating study on the influence of father figures as well as how money and power can corrupt justice. Most of the time the story is equal parts frustrating and heartbreaking as the honorable hero’s mission to clear his father and take down the guilty parties meets with failure after failure. The writers add insult to injury by adding a timeline related to the hero’s health which really increases the sense of urgency. Yoo Seung Ho is wonderful as the hero, his youth complementing his innocence and initially naive belief in the justice system. The love and vulnerability in the scenes between him and his father are the most moving in the series. Plus, he cries so pretty. It’s nice to see that even though he is disillusioned he still maintains his honor and continues to put the law and truth above his need for revenge. At first I found the anti-hero who defended the falsely accused father as the most interesting character. He’s so unique; flashy, unapologetic of his lowly origins and willing to bend (but not break) the law to defend his clients. But once he starts working for the enemy he loses some of his personality only regaining his cheekiness towards the end. However, he does have the best character arc. The actor playing the villain clearly relishes his role, making his character so fun to watch and also hate. I’m a bit disappointed with the bittersweet ending because even though justice and truth are served, it doesn’t compensate for the destruction of so many innocent lives, nor the full loss of what the hero experiences.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022) – What an absolutely adorable show. I really wasn’t expecting to be so charmed by the title character and the story line in general. But charmed I was by the innocent genius of Attorney Woo who also happens to be remarkably self aware. I appreciated how the writing portrays the world from the perspective of an autistic person and how she interacts with it. I loved the interactions between her and her love interest, although I still have my doubts as to the sustainability of them as a couple. But they are really sweet together. Even more than the romance, I loved the depiction of Attorney Woo’s journey towards independence and the support system that develops around her. The supporting characters are all so interesting and add so much enjoyment to the viewing experience. I even liked each week’s legal case and how the outcome was not always predictable. In short, this series was even better than I expected.
True to Love/Bora! Deborah (2023) – I tried, I really did. I’ve always found Yoo In Na endearing, and was so excited to see her in a starring role in this new romantic comedy about a dating coach whose life implodes when her long term boyfriend breaks up with her. Though the story rings more true to life than most K-dramas in the circumstances and the emotional journey she experiences, it just never really captured my interest. There were too many scenes that were cringe worthy and I felt the chemistry between her and the male lead/potential new love interest was lacking. I’m not usually one to drop a show this far in, but I finally gave up at episode ten, when I realized I was forcing myself to continue even as I continued struggling to pay attention and care about the characters.
Kill Me, Heal Me (2015) – I was immediately hooked by this drama about an heir struggling with multiple personality disorder, mainly thanks to the performance of Ji Sung as the lead. He was fabulous at switching between the various personalities and making them feel real and unique. You would think a show dealing with such a topic and the trauma which created it would be heavy but for the most part the writing does a great job balancing between humor and gravity as it explores the challenges of this disease. I found myself really drawn to several of the personalities as did the female psych resident who becomes the hero’s private doctor and love interest. Even though I question the science and treatment the show gives to this disease, I really loved how our heroine treats each personality that manifests as a normal individual. However, I did think the female lead was too over the top and dramatic in her performance. Many times she tended towards screechy and even child like which does her character a huge disservice since she is actually very compassionate, patient and wise. I’m not a particular fan of Park Seo Joon, but I loved him as the heroine’s twin brother and think this is one of his best roles. He is hilarious at times, but also integral to the plot. After a while this one did start to feel dragged out to me and I was ready for everything to wrap up. The show’s overuse of flashbacks and even some sadly unnecessary characters could have been cut out to keep things more concise and interesting.
Still 17 (2018) – For a healing drama which tackles arrested development, abandonment and grief, the tone remains very hopeful and light. I was so curious to see how the premise of how two people who are mentally stuck in their teenage years, one caused by emotional trauma and the other due to a coma, would play out. I was surprisingly pleased that the show focuses on the heroine’s emotional and psychological adjustments rather than more external ones like the changes in technology and environment. In my opinion, Shin Hye Sun is an underrated actress and does a great job imbuing her character with this childlike wonder and innocence along with astonishing resilience which inspires the people around her. Her co-star Yang Se Jong also impressed me as her love interest whose own emotional journey from an odd, reclusive loner to a man who learns to open up and trust others. I was also won over by the found family they form in the house they all share and how those connections helped them all grow into better people.
Go Go Squid! (2019) – I chose this one on the basis of having just seen the lead actress in Oath of Love which I loved. The two shows share some similarities including a grumpy-sunshine romance between two people with a sizable age difference. Though I didn’t like this series as much, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. The overall tone of the show is fairly light-hearted, although it does explore the emotional impact of the hero’s severed relationships with his former gaming team mates. The main couple are so cute together, even though there are times where that age difference becomes obvious in the heroine’s cutesy mannerisms. Their romance gets even sweeter as he starts to open up and it’s fun to watch him tease her with such a serious face. This series also includes the hero’s experiences in the gaming field. In similar and previous shows I’ve seen, I didn’t understand and couldn’t maintain interest in the gaming sections of the plot, however that was not the case here. Even though I still didn’t comprehend what the team was doing, I was invested in their personal stories and competitions. Unfortunately I struggled with the English sub-titles which often didn’t match up with the dialogue and the scenes. The heroine’s hideous wardrobe was also a distraction. But those are minor quibbles to what is a pretty cheerful little show.
Mysterious Love (2021) – This shorter Chinese drama mixes romance and action in its’ plot about the reunion of a special ops security guard and the woman he had rescued in a previous mission. Unfortunately for them, there are still unresolved threads of that mission that come back to endanger them both. This is a shorter series, which is good, because while I was initially captivated by the story, eventually I was ready for it to be wrapped up. Perhaps because of the shorter run time, the plot and character development are somewhat shallow. The dialogue was also pretty cheesy and the lead actor’s delivery was fairly wooden and stilted. Thankfully, the lead actress was very natural and believable in her role. I also thought the use of flashbacks was well done. If you are looking for something light and thoughtless to serve as a filler watch in between other entertainment this isn’t a bad option.
The Palm Beach Story (1942) – This marital comedy by Preston Sturges is a classic for a reason. Despite a convoluted plot about a woman who leaves her husband in search of a richer man to support her husband’s career dreams, the film manages to be witty, clever, fun and the right kind of ridiculous. It’s a delightful piece of entertainment.
The Decoy Bride (2011) – Though nothing exceptional, this is a pretty cute rom-com starring David Tennant and Kelly MacDonald Set on a remote isle, she plays a stand in bride to Tennant whose previous wedding to a celebrity was ruined by the paparazzi. It’s a bit far-fetched to think the two would fall in love so quickly, but they did have such lovely banter and seemed to be a good match with enough in common. There’s really not a lot to the plot other than the two running around the island while falling for each other, but I still find this super cute.
Second Act (2018) – My memories of this film were positive but I couldn’t remember much about the plot. Watching it a second time, I really like the story line about a woman whose lack of education gets in the way of her career success despite her years of experience. I also really loved the secondary plot exploring her secret pain of giving her daughter up for adoption years prior. Once they are finally reunited, the scenes between her and that daughter are very touching. The supporting characters playing her good friends added some nice touches of humor and warmth. Leah Remini in particular is a stand out, although her rapport with Jennifer Lopez is obviously real and natural as they are real life friends. As much as I hate to say it, I really think Lopez personal image and performance detract from the main character. I really think it would have been a better film with a different actress who could have disappeared into the role. But overall, its’ not bad.
Fisherman’s Friends: One and All (2022) – The original Fisherman’s Friends is one of my favorite film finds in recent years and I’ve seen it several times. So I was eager to see this sequel. Sadly, this one didn’t quite live up to expectations. Many of the original actors return with a few exceptions, so the cast chemistry is still very good. And I love how they incorporated one of the original cast members who’s character dies in the first film. But, there was waaaay too much angst this time around and not enough comedy. One of the highlights of the original is the fish out of water story as well as the group overcoming their under-dog status. This time around the focus is on the grief process for a main character which includes alot of angry and drunken rages. This eliminates much of the charm of the story and its’ characters. Still, we get to revisit the beautiful and familiar Cornish scenery as well as hear a few more gorgeously harmonized songs, so it’s not a total loss.
Rams (2020) – When I read the plot about two estranged shepherd brothers in Australia, I expected this film to be a bit offbeat and humorous. What I got instead was a very slow, introspective story regarding their relationship and the devastation disease can have on a small community whose livelihood and heritage is raising sheep. I wish I could say I found this more interesting, but I just couldn’t get past how this failed to live up to my misplaced expectations.
Hallmark: Road Trip Romance, Love On the Air, Wedding Season, Bridal Wave, Wedding Bells, Love’s Greek to Me, The Wedding Contract, Ring by Spring, Love on Safari