NOVEMBER 2022 BREAKDOWN
- 17 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 2 TV series
- 15 foreign films/series
Biggest Disappointment: Love is for Suckers
Favorite Discovery: My Strange Hero
Miss Scarlet and the Duke Season 2 – After a longer than desired wait, season two did not disappoint. I’m happy to see they are not rushing the romantic relationship between Eliza and Detective Wellington. It’s so much fun to watch them verbally sparring and at odds with each other. Moses is quickly becoming my favorite character; that cheeky grin, island accent and willingness to assist Miss Scarlet have won me over. The new characters including the timid Detective Fitzroy and the craft PI Nash really add some drama to the story lines and reveal new depths in our main characters.
Doc Martin Season 10 -Even though I feel it’s time to wrap up this series, I sure will miss it. It was nice to have one last visit to Port Wenn, Doc Martin and friends. It was nice how the show referenced back to earlier seasons, by re-visiting the Doc’s deceased Aunt Joan’s home, and even brought back Louisa’s dad as well as one of my favorite guest characters ever – the squirrel guy (if you know, you know). I guess this means it’s time to start all over again with season one.
The Queen and I (2012) – I’ve read great things about this time-travel romance and it didn’t disappoint. I can’t help but be charmed by lead actress Yoo In Na, who plays a familiar (and meta) role as a bubbly actress who falls for a nobleman from three hundred years ago. The chemistry between the two is especially on point as they started a real life romance while filming. The second lead and ex-boyfriend is so handsome and charismatic that I almost wished he was the hero, but the long glances and playful interactions between the leads won me over. I liked that the hero is a mix of alpha and beta; calm, rational, patient and smart, while also being a great fighter. Despite the complete lack of reasonability, I happen to love time-travel stories and this one does a great job explaining the mechanisms behind the time jumps as well as the consequences. The series could have ended at episode 14 and I would have been happy. Other than wrapping up a few minor loose ends, the last two episodes weren’t necessary, but I won’t complain.
Legend of the Blue Sea (2016) – Sharing similarities to My Love From the Star, including lead actress Jun Ji Hyun, I actually liked this romantic story between a mermaid and a con-artist better. Beautiful lighting, settings and a soft color palette enhanced the sense of whimsy and the fairy tale aspects of this show. I particularly loved the earliest episodes set in Spain. This is my first experience with Lee Min Ho and I was pleasantly surprised by him with his admirable portrayal of the growth of his character and his ability to depict his character’s inner conflict and tenderness. I love Jun Ji Hyun’s skill at physical comedy and she never worries about looking ridiculous onscreen. I found myself laughing at her antics and was tickled by her choice of friends; a homeless woman and a young girl. Her mermaid was such an endearing character. Among the villains, the most compelling person was the stepbrother who really didn’t seem that evil and yet made poor choices. I was happy with the ending even though it felt a little different in mood than the rest of the series. But I like the idea of them being happy with a normal, mundane life.
I Remember You/Hello Monster (2015) – Are psychopaths born or made? That is the driving question of this psychological drama that plays out between two brothers separated after a traumatic childhood. I have so many thoughts after finishing this series, and will no doubt be haunted by them for a long while. The first half is a very slow simmer as the show takes time to build foundations, motivations and relationships, but the last half kept me on the edge of my seat with anticipation and kept me guessing as to what would happen next. The characters were superbly fleshed out so that I could even have empathy and understanding of the villains. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the police investigative team as well as the odd, but growing relationship between the hero and heroine. The very weird dynamic between the real psycho and the brothers was complex and puzzled me often in how they all responded to each other. The brothers relationship was deep, strong and heart-breaking, especially in the scene where they meet again after years apart. I also thought the heroine was so well drawn; she was strong, independent and fearless, but also compassionate and understanding. The fabulous cast perfectly portrayed the nuanced emotions and undercurrents of each of their characters. In particular, D.O. in a small role as the young serial killer was especially chilling. The open ending was surprising, unexpected and not altogether to my liking. All in all, this was an utterly captivating, thought-provoking series I won’t soon forget.
Forest (2020) – To be frank, this show appealed to me thanks to it’s small town, forest setting. The scenery is gorgeous, all that lush green with lots of great shots of the sunlight peeking through. There was a lot of potential here, but also so much wasted in this healing drama about two people with panic disorders who find themselves embroiled in corporate and environmental espionage. It would have been better if the focus had remained on the romance and the emotional drama of both of them dealing with their disorders, because the espionage sections really weren’t all that interesting until the very end. But man, the chemistry between the two leads was the highlight for me, including one of the sexiest kisses I’ve seen in a long time (which I am now mentally referring to as the heartbeat kiss). I also enjoyed the fact that the hero worked with a emergency rescue team which made for a lot of physically dramatic scenes. The second male lead was as cute as a puppy with his bright smile and sense of integrity, even to the point of standing up to his beloved father. I wish the plot had explored the relationship between the two male leads a bit more as it was complicated and just getting good.
Hymn of Death (2018) – I do appreciate a good romantic tragedy occasionally and this definitely fits the bill. The fact that its’ based on the true story of Korea’s first female soprano’s doomed love affair with a married playwright makes it even more poignant. Though I question the morality of some of their choices, the show does a great job laying out the motivation behind those decisions so that I can empathize. It’s especially interesting that they both begin by passionately supporting Korean freedom in the era of Japanese occupation, but ultimately lack freedom in their daily personal lives thanks to family constraints. With only three episodes, the time to explore the lives of these two is brief, but the slow, contemplative pace makes it feel longer. The performances are understated but touching and the music score excellently enhances the overall tone with some beautiful orchestral numbers.
My Strange Hero (2019) – Yoo Seung Ho, Jo Bo Ah and Kwak Dong Yeon headline in this story about a young man who goes back to school years after being expelled to get revenge against his former friend and ex-girlfriend. Yoo Seung Ho was the sole reason I chose this one and he’s so utterly adorable and sweet in this role. It’s ironic that his original motive is revenge when it’s really justice and the protection of the weak that drives him. Everyone knows it but him and it’s also the reason he becomes the unwitting hero of his classroom of misfits. The Wildflower class was one of my favorite things about this drama. They are a real under-dog story and finally unite and gain hope thanks to their adult classmate. The romance started out rocky for me as Jo Bo Ah’s heroine was not too likable to start with, but once their misunderstandings are worked out, they are utterly supportive and loving. Kwak Dong Yeon portrays one of the most heart breaking antagonists I’ve ever seen. Often I hated his choices, but I always understood the pain that drives him, mostly because the actor’s eyes are liquid and able to fully depict his inner turmoil. The fact that he gets a chance at redemption made me so happy for him despite all the awful things he did. Despite being billed as a revenge drama, it was remarkably light and fun to watch.
Search WWW (2019) – Sophisticated, smart and sexy, this drama tells the story of three fierce but flawed women who fight for dominance in their jobs at internet browser companies. The plot and character portrayals felt fresh and exciting as the conflicts they faced were realistic, not cliche. The relationships among the three women were fascinating with a lot of push and pull, loyalty and betrayals. I really appreciate how we got to see in-depth portraits of women in the workplace and how that affects their lives and relationships. And as a romantic I enjoyed seeing the romances the women enjoy but also liked that it didn’t over take the focus on their personal character development. I honestly can’t choose a favorite couple of the three as they were all so compelling. Of the three female leads, I loved the character of Hyun/Scarlett the most. She was such a fun person; fiercely loyal, a strong fighter both physically and other ways, ballsy but also sweet and and kind.
The Innocent Man/Nice Guy (2012) – Whew, this revenge melodrama brought the drama to the nth degree and was ridiculously over the top with the tropes and plot devices. I mean, three cases of amnesia? And yet somehow, I couldn’t quit watching, mostly thanks to the performance of leading man Song Joon Ki. He starts out an innocent med student who is hardened by betrayal and then seeks revenge against the woman he loved, HIs performance makes the character a complete enigma. The minute changes in his facial expressions and flickers in his eyes are the only thing that give any clue to his character’s true feelings. The female antagonist/ex-girlfriend was well written. Instead of being truly evil, her decisions are made out of selfish fear and desperation. I really felt her inner conflict in wanting circumstances to be different but also using them to advance her own agenda. Unfortunately, the main romance between the male lead and the woman he uses for his revenge was toxic and dysfunctional so I couldn’t really cheer for them to be together. Still, even with it’s flaws, this series was rather addictive.
I Married an Anti-Fan (2016) – I didn’t like this Chinese film any better than it’s Korean re-make, which is too bad because the hate to love trope is one of my favorites. In any case, I almost didn’t make it through the first thirty minutes, but thankfully the film improved some. There was some good comedy moments including a scene where the two leads are handcuffed together that made me laugh so hard. I do think the series was better because it had more time to develop and explore the plot and the relationship, but I really wouldn’t recommend either.
Love in Contract (2022) – Park Min Young stars in yet another rom-com series about a woman who makes a living entering into contract relationships, only to find herself embroiled in a love triangle with two of her clients; a judge and a popular actor. Yet, it is Go Kyung Po (whom I generally find dull) and who plays the reticent judge that steals the show. This part was made for him. His subtle gestures and glances reveal his developing feelings for his contract bride. I like how both of their characters are still willing to be vulnerable with each other even though neither one has any past experience with love or trust. And those past experiences and the people in them truly are reprehensible. The second male lead was likable, but I hated how he forced his decisions on the heroine without discussing them with her. And I didn’t find the change of heart of her former nanny believable at all. But her best friend/pseudo brother was awesome!
Shopaholic Louis (2016) – I’m a fan of Seo In Guk and his role as a sweet child-like heir with amnesia is a bit different than I’ve seen from him before. It definitely makes use of his agile, expressive face! It’s a somewhat familiar plot which reminded me a bit of 100 Days My Prince, especially since the female lead is played by the same actress Nam Ji Hyun. The whole show is really cotton candy fluff. Even the villains aren’t really that bad. The supporting characters at the conglomerate company were a lot of fun, especially the flamboyant second male lead.
Put Your Head on My Shoulder (2019) – I totally fell in love with the main couple of this Chinese drama. A reserved science genius falls hard for a bubbly woman who unwittingly becomes his roommate. They are too cute together and it’s inspiring how they bring out the best in each other. Their height difference led to some darling moments where he picks her up and carries her around like a child. But they made me believe in their love story. I didn’t care much for any of the supporting characters and ended up skipping through most of the scenes which didn’t include the two leads.
Love is for Suckers (2022) – What a disappointment this turned out to be. I was excited to see Lee Da Hee in a starring role because I loved her fierce characters in The Beauty Inside and Search WWW. Her reality show producer persona started out strong in the first couple of episodes, but then was made subservient to stronger characters from then on. I was also curious to see how the premise of two long time friends falling in love would play out. Sadly, the chemistry between the two never really developed any sizzle. The supporting characters weren’t any better developed. I really think the writing is to blame for one of the most bland and boring shows I’ve seen in a while.
Hallmark Movies: (favorites in bold) Time for Him to Come Home for Christmas, The Christmas Card, Christmas by Starlight, , #Xmas, The Royal Nanny, Long Lost Christmas, Christmas Bedtime Stories, A Kismet Christmas, Three Wise Men and a Baby, Jolly Good Christmas, In Merry Measure, Ghosts of Christmas Always, Once Upon a Holiday, Christmas at the Golden Dragon, Christmas in Homestead, Five More Minutes