November 2023 Quickie Reviews

November 2023 BREAkdown
  • 12 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 10 foreign films/series
  • 1 tv series
  • 1 re-watch

Biggest Disappointment: About Time

Just Between Lovers

Favorite Discovery: Just Between Lovers

Television Series

Harry Wild Season 1 – What a revelation it is to see Jane Seymour in a role like this! She plays a classy but gritty retired literature professor who teams up with a disadvantaged young man to solve crimes. This adds friction to her relationship with her police detective son who likes to do things by the book. It took me an episode or two to get used to her seeing her as this type of character but once I did, I was sold. I love the developing relationship between her and her very disparate college aged partner. I even warmed up to her bold and brassy confidence. If you like murder mysteries that are just this side of dark and gritty, but while still maintaining some charm, this is a great choice.

Foreign Films & Series

About Time (2018) – What a disappointment. I was so intrigued by the concept of a woman who can see people’s life spans who finds a man who pauses her own limited time clock. She does everything she can to stay near him to extend her life. There was so much that could have been done with this story, and so many important messages that could have been communicated. But in the end it was lackluster. On top of that, the chemistry between the two leads is non-existent and I did not find the male lead appealing at all. I managed to finish the series by skipping the really boring parts.

Daily Dose of Sunshine (2023) – I love Park Bo Young and will watch anything she’s in which is how I ended up watching this procedural set in a mental patient ward. She is very sincere as an empathetic nurse. The visual portrayal of what it can feel like to battle various mental illnesses was unique and eye-opening. It really aided me in understanding something that is rather foreign to me. I could relate to the idea of how feeling overwhelmed could cause a panic which would like a drowning. The show also addressed the stigma those with mental illnesses face as well as the emotional journeys of those who love them. Breaks in between episodes were necessary due to the heavy subject matter, but there was an overall positive and hopeful tone. I didn’t find the romances necessary to the plot, as the other relationships seemed more significant in the development of the characters.

My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (2010) – I started this one a couple months ago, but quit early on. This time around I fell hard for Shin Min A as the mythical being who who falls for a human. Her interpretation is absolutely adorable and unique. Considering she has lived for hundreds of years, she remains naive and innocent and her childlike reactions to experiencing the world of humans is just so delightful and endearing. The hero also had a great character arc, growing from a spoiled, cowardly guy to someone willing to take responsibility and be willing to sacrifice for another.

My ID is Gangnam Beauty (2018) -The best thing about this series is the way it explores and challenges cultural norms surrounding beauty and appearance. I loved the way it presented various aspects of this debate and the impact it has whether someone is considered beautiful or unattractive. The writing even delved into the hypocrisy of how this affects the genders differently. This is all portrayed through the heroine’s journey from being bullied for her looks as a child to now being considered pretty after plastic surgery. The plot portrays how an outward change does not necessarily reflect an inward one as she still wrestled with feelings of inferiority. Although the lead actor is pretty popular because of his looks, I found his character and his performance rather dull overall. The friendship between the heroine and her best friend was so sweet and supportive.

Hello, My Twenties/Age of Youth (2016) – I liked this slice of life drama about five twenty-something women sharing an apartment. But I didn’t necessarily find it bingeable. The relationships among the girls was definitely the highlight of the show. Each one of them got separate screen time focusing on their individual issues, yet their time together and the way they navigated sharing a space and their lives was what made the show so heartwarming. Honestly, they had a lot less conflict among themselves than expected for five women sharing a bathroom and a fridge! But even with all their differences and arguments they always banded together to protect each other. My favorite of the five was the hooker/call girl who was open and honest with herself and others about her job. She was very direct but also cared a lot about others and was unashamed of her choices.

Dine With Love (2022) – Despite really positive reviews and a high production value, I didn’t love this one like I thought I would. It passed with a like instead. It’s one of those office romances with a warm heroine who teaches the rich but cold and emotionally stunted CEO how to get in touch with his heart through the joy of cooking. Even though the hero did show some growth, I never warmed up to him. On the upside, this series did a much better job catching my interest in the second and third couples which is more than I can say for most Chinese dramas. I also found the characters and overall story to have a bit more depth and the sets and color palette is richer than usual.  Youtube’s Chinese to English subtitles are terrible however, so I switched over to Viki to finish the series. However, the redeeming factor is the portrayal of food. Unlike many series, this one features home cooked style food, without the high gloss usually given to gourmet meals. Instead it focuses on the warmth and memories that are created around meals the characters have grown up eating.

Itaewon Class (2020) – What a great underdog story, with fascinating, well written characters. None of them lacked a great backstory or character development. They felt like real people, human and flawed, but I really admired their tenacity and courage. Though I’m generally not a fan of revenge stories, this one was more than that and I was happy with the hero’s realization that his relationships were more important than anything else he accomplished.  Of all the relationships the show focused on, the father-son moments had the most emotional impact on me. This series was worth watching even if it won’t make my list of favorites.

Come Back Alive (2016)  – Rain and Oh Yeon Seo are the comedy duo I never knew I needed in this story about second chances. They are fantastic together! One is a middle aged gangster and the other an abused middle manager who after death return as a hot young woman and sexy man with the opportunity to set things right for their loved ones left behind. Their scenes together are hilarious especially when interspersed with their original male forms. Even though they both have their purposes for returning, ultimately they realize that the best thing they can do for their loved ones is to help them move on.  This series has some weaknesses but does a good job balancing the humor and more serious moments as it explores messages about the meaning of life, and the impact of death on those left behind. I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it.

Just Between Lovers/Rain or Shine (2017) – With its’ understated but honest depiction of grief and survivor’s guilt this one gave me all the feels. Although I haven’t experienced a mass tragedy like the protagonists did, I could relate to the various ways people process those losses. My heart ached for the two lead characters and I just wanted to gather them up in a hug and comfort them. Watching their tentative steps towards finally dealing with their past traumas was so moving. And I loved watching how their developing relationship gave both of them a safe place to do that. The way they were so patient, tender and understanding with each other even pushing the other way at times. Their relationship was just so sweet and such a respite not only for them but for me as a viewer. Even though the story features very serious and sad subject matter, it still managed to maintain a thread of hope throughout which was really appreciated.

At A Distance, Spring is Green (2021) – Knowing nothing about this series ahead of time, I had no expectations. It’s a college drama exploring the difference between the expectations of youth versus the realities. The three protagonists begin as strangers who struggle with the traumas of poverty, insecurity and domestic violence. Through their developing relationships they become a means of support for each other to overcome their difficulties and to experience some freedom. The abuse storyline was a triggering one but also the one that affected me most. And I really appreciated how the series portrayed that poverty really is it’s own form of trauma.

Classics

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936) – Sometimes you just need a William Powell fix and since I’m also a fan of his co-star Jean Arthur, this fit the bill. Its a reunion romance mixed with a murder mystery, and though it’s neither of their best films, it is mildly entertaining.

Hallmark  (favorites in bold) – Window Wonderland, Christmas by Design, A Dicken’s Holiday, Mystery on Mistletoe Lane, Flipping for Christmas, The Christmas Cottage, The Santa Summit, Tis the Season to be Merry, A Veteran’s Christmas, A Heidelberg Holiday, Checkin’ It Twice, Christmas Waltz, The Perfect Christmas Present, Christmas Under the Stars, Five Star Christmas, Under the Christmas Sky, A Merry Scottish Christmas, Mystic Christmas, Love You Like Christmas, Holiday Hotline Three Wise Men and a Baby, A Very Merry Bridesmaid, Heaven Sent, Holiday Road, A Gift Wrapped Christmas, Ms. Christmas Comes to Town, Joyeux Noel, Christmas in Notting Hill, A Biltmore Christmas, Unlocking Christmas, Our Christmas Mural, The Christmas Card, Never Been Chris’d,

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