octoBER 2022 BREAKDOWN
- 22 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 3 re-watches
- 4 TV series
- 11 foreign films/series
Biggest Disappointment: So I Married an Anti-Fan
Favorite Discovery: Dr. Romantic
Recipes for Love and Murder (2022) – Set in South Africa. this murder mystery was a bit offbeat from what I’m used to, especially in the way it melds food and death. An amateur chef and advice columnist gets mixed up in solving a local murder along with her reporter friend and her boss. Though leaning more on the serious side, there are a few comedic moments to keep it light, my favorite being when two of the suspects (who hate each other) team up to hunt down the real killer. I really enjoyed the little vignettes of the people who write in for advice and also liked how many strong female characters were featured.
Corner Gas Season 5 – Still working my way through the re-watch of this entire series. It just makes me happy.
The Last Detective Season 2 – I can’t say this is a favorite detective show. But it’s always nice to know I’m watching a lead character who is incredibly decent and kind. I’m glad Dangerous’ captain is finally coming around to appreciate him.
Monk Season 2 – This show really tickles my funny bone. Although some of the crimes in this season feel very far-fetched. The introduction of Monk’s brother adds interest and some depth to his background story.
Foreign Films & Series
True Beauty (2020) – Well, this was rather delightful. The story about an ugly duckling who turns herself into a swan has a serious and important message about beauty standards and not judging others by appearance, but it is kept very light and comic which I appreciate. This is my first school drama and I adored Moon Ga-Young’s character whose outer transformation allows her to finally show her inner integrity and kindness. She’s an endearing, klutzy goofball who is quick to forgive which I really love. She is joined by Cha Eun Woo and Hwang In Youp who play her love interests in a triangle. I found Cha Eun Woo’s character rather dull, even though he is beautiful to look at. Hwang In Youp just about stole the show as the second lead and displayed outstanding chemistry with the lead actress as well as some great comedy chops.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020) – I have mixed feelings about this drama. The performances and overall production are impressive and very well done. I liked the gothic fairy tale feel of the series. And I do think mental illness is an important topic to feature, especially when shown in a compassionate manner. But it didn’t feel like the treatment and support for these illnesses were handled in a serious, realistic way, which bothered me. The three main characters and their relationship was the best thing about this show for me. I loved the way they formed a family and their interactions, but even with the progress they made together, I didn’t think that they completely removed some of the toxic aspects of their actions which makes it hard for me to believe their relationships would not continue to be dysfunctional.
While You Were Sleeping (2017) – After reading so many great reviews for this show, I finally gave it a watch. It has a great premise, with three people who become connected through prophetic dreams they have about one another. I would have liked if the show had kept us guessing more about what was a dream and what was reality as it did in the first episode. That would have made for a much more compelling drama. But I did appreciate the relationship between our three leads played by Bae Suzy, Lee Jong Suk and Jung Jae In. I preferred the two male leads to the female one and was really grateful that the show didn’t overplay the love triangle. Lee Jong Suk was so adorkable. And the way the female lead’s mother takes the boys under her wing and makes them part of the family was just the sweetest. I also found the depiction of the legal system very interesting.
Lawless Lawyer (2018) – Reminding me of Vincenzo, this revenge drama using the law against corrupt political powers didn’t capture my interest quite as much. I lost interest in the details of the plot and the double crosses halfway through. However, the swagger of the hero (Lee Joon Gi) and one of the villains (Choi Min Soo) kept me watching until the end. Having just seen Seo Yea Ji in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, it was fun seeing her in a slightly different role as moral attorney who is still a strong woman. The portrayal of the real evil mastermind was a very understated performance and the final takedown of that person was anti-climatic which was a disappointment. Still, this kept me entertained.
Dr. Romantic (2016) – A fast-paced, character driven medical drama which held me captive from beginning to end and is one of my favorite Kdrama discoveries this year. It depicts the action in a small country hospital where the disgraced genius doctor, Master Kim, becomes a mentor to younger, less experienced doctors while fighting against the corrupt bureaucracy of the main hospital director. It also tackles medical and personal ethics with great understanding and compassion. Han Suk Kyu is perfection as Master Kim who is the conscience of Doldam Hospital and the one who everyone looks to for guidance and approval. I also thought Seo Hyun Jin gives an outstanding performance as his primary student. Her romance with another doctor played by Yeo Yeon Seok was understated but so cute and added some lightness and comedy to what was an intense drama.
Because This is My First Life (2017) – Through depicting the relationships of three couples, a very thoughtful and mature exploration of love, dating and marriage was made. And one which eschews cliches. This show was a slow start for me, but by the end left me very impressed with it’s depth of understanding, even if I didn’t always agree with the conclusions reached.
So I Married My Anti-Fan (2021) – What a disappointing show. With an interesting premise described by the title and that borrows a bit from Pride and Prejudice, along with a good cast, there was so much potential. I almost quit on this series several times. Everything moves slowly, the chemistry between the leads was off as was the development of their relationship. I really hated the story line for the secondary characters who had ties to our male pop star lead. I was so frustrated with the way most of the characters reacted to each other and their circumstances. My favorite parts were the scenes between the heroine and her parents. It was clear they had a close, loving relationship and I loved how they defended and supported her. I also wish there had been more scenes between her and her two friends, one of whom was played by Kim Min Kyu. More of Kim Min Kyu would definitely have improved my viewing experience!
Her Private Life (2019) – What an absolute delight of a showl! I’m not a big fan of Park Min Young, but she does have a winsome smile and her own brand of charm which was on full display here. Her chemistry with co-star Kim Jae Wook was off the charts and I pretty much swooned every time they kissed. Their onscreen relationship was almost too perfect, but also inspirational. I enjoyed that their story was placed within an artistic setting (museum) and that they both had art careers. The subtle way they story drew out the influence and importance of mothers made me emotional. The lighting throughout each episode and the vivid colors used was stunning and all the characters were fun, especially character actor Kim Sun Youn who really got to ham it up for the camera in a flamboyant role. It did tend to slow down and drag out a bit in the last several episodes as it explored the trauma and tragic shared pasts of our two leads. I felt like that shared past came out of nowhere and was unnecessary. I also didn’t like how her adopted brother suddenly developed a crush on her. That felt weird and icky and kind of ruined the lovely rapport they had. But overall, I would recommend this one.
Backstreet Rookie (2020) -I almost didn’t make it through the first half of this show as I had a hard time connecting with the characters and didn’t find them all that likable. But I pushed through for my love of Ji Chang Wook. He plays a convenience store manager who hires a woman who has been secretly in love with him for years. I liked her character, whose innocence belied her hard life. She was literally a kickass woman who balanced her fighting skills with this sweet femininity. Her love for the hero was so selfless and pure so that I really cheered when the two of them finally get together. Especially since he was equally as kind and thoughtful. Unfortunately, I did not like the supporting characters much at all. The hero’s family was obnoxious and selfish, the girlfriend self-absorbed and entitled and the friends weren’t all that interesting. The heroine’s sister and friends weren’t much better. The one exception to that is Kim Min Kyu who portrays the second male lead and childhood friend of our lead actress. I loved his character’s care and concern for her despite the risk to his celebrity status.
Tale of Arang (2012) – Ok, so I completely fell in love with the title character played by Shin Min A. She’s an amnesiac ghost who is determined to uncover her identity and what caused her death. She’s feisty, brave, reckless, foolish and just downright lovable. It’s a very physical role and I admire the actress for taking on all that running, fighting, falling etc. She’s well matched by her co-star Lee Joon Gi as the illegitimate son of a nobleman, reluctant magistrate and the man who can see supernatural beings. I was tickled by how resistant he is to help others and yet can’t seem to say no to Arang. He really knocked it out of the park in his emotional scenes. The secondary love story between his slave and the local shaman was super cute and the character arc for one of our conflicted villains was pretty moving too. However, I do think some editing would have helped. The last third of the series kind of lagged for me. This probably could have been trimmed down to the normal sixteen episodes without sacrificing anything important.
Splash Splash Love (2015) – Two words: absolutely adorable! A teenage girl time travels to historical Joseon where she befriends the king and becomes a math genius, despite being an average student in the current time. There is not much logical about this short mini-series, but the chemistry and characterization of the leads overpowers any lack of credibility in the story. The romance is so cute and the fact that the heroine’s “time machine” is via rain puddles was so unique. Honestly, I could watch this one over and over again. And I probably will.
See How They Run (2022) – It’s so nice to have pictures worth seeing in the theater again. This is a highly stylized whodunnit, which is also a satirical comedy of the mystery genre, based around the long-running London Agatha Christie play, The Mousetrap. To put it more succinctly, the movie is all kinds of fun. The settings and costumes are fabulous, the characters over the top which makes the mystery the least interesting thing about the film. Filled with meta moments, it’s clear the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. With a cast that includes seasoned performers like Sam Rockwell, Ruth Wilson, Adrien Brody and David Oyewolo, Saoirse Ronan gives, what I think is the best performance as a young, eager detective who is constantly jumping to conclusions.
Appointment With Death (1988) –This Agatha Christie film adaptation was new to me and once again featured Peter Ustinov as Poirot as well as Lauren Bacall, Piper Laurie and Hayley Mills in the cast. The victim is a woman who rules her stepchildren with an iron fist. But the plot just couldn’t hold my interest. The quality of this production is lesser than others and I never really cared that much about any of the characters. I did end up guessing who the killer was, but not because the clues were obvious, more because the character was so obnoxious it couldn’t be otherwise. I doubt I would watch again.
It Could Happen To You (1994) – It has been so long since I had seen this that it felt like I was watching it for the first time again. It was so cute. Nicholas Cage is the likable cop who splits his winning lottery ticket with Bridget Fonda’s bankrupt waitress to the dismay of his wife played by Rosie Perez. Cage and Fonda’s characters are so down to earth and innocent, that I didn’t even mind that they both have legal spouses at the time they fall in love. It’s interesting to see how the money they win affects each character differently.
Emma (2009) – I will never get tired of watching this mini-series. It is definitely my favorite adaptation of Austen’s famous character. Romola Garai perfectly depicts the meddling match-maker whose privilege blinds her at at times. I also love the portrayal of the other characters by this talented cast as well as the settings and costumes.
A Walk in the Clouds (1995) -There’s something dreamy and romantic about this old favorite. Keanu Reeves stars as a WWII vet who get entangled with the cultural expectations of a Mexican family who owns a successful vineyard when he acts as a fake husband for the daughter of the house. The colors used are rich and warm and the vineyard setting also adds to the ambiance. Anthony Quinn is great in his supporting role as the retired patriarch who forms a bond with Reeves.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) – My mom and I were very disappointed to miss this in the theaters, but finally got a chance to stream it. Lesley Manville gives a heartbreaking and hope filled performance of a woman who has been overlooked and servile most of her life. But when she pursues her dream of owning a Dior dress, she changes her own life and the life of others. I’m not as familiar with the rest of the cast, but enjoyed them all. The post war Paris setting as well as the behind the scenes work rooms of an atelier were all so interesting. Boasting a unique charm, relatable characters and a great message, I will definitely be watching this again.
Bonneville (2006) – When one of their husbands die, three older women go on a road trip to return his ashes home. I love road trip stories and also those that feature female friendships. This one is a bit slower and bittersweet since it uses both of these plot devices to explore grief. With a lesser cast, I might have tuned out, but since it stars Jessica Lange, Joan Allen and Kathy Bates, it managed to hold my interest until the end.
Hallmark: Wedding of a Lifetime, Autumn in the City, Perfect Harmony, Noel Next Door, Small Town Christmas. A Joyous Christmas, We Need a Little Christmas. On the 12th Date of Christmas, We Wish You a Married Christmas