April 2023 BREAKDOWN
- 19 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 11 foreign films/series
- 3 re-watches
- 2 classic films
- 2 TV series
Biggest Disappointment: So Ends Our Night
Favorite Discovery: Lighter and Princess, Encounter
Chosen Season 3 – This season felt a bit more hit and miss to me than previous seasons with certain episodes being forgettable and others memorable. But it still had some very powerful moments as it explored questions of faith and doubt. It also portrayed some of the more well known events of Jesus’ ministry, such as when He is rejected by his hometown, the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter, the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and the feeding of the 5000. One story arc that really sticks out is that of Peter and his wife and the struggle to overcome a personal tragedy that is affecting their marriage which ultimately culminates in Peter obeying Jesus to step out of the boat in a storm to walk on water. The strength of this show is humanizing biblical characters that have become familiar and giving the audience a new perspective on them.
The Doctor Blake Mysteries -I can’t count how many times I’ve watched this series, but I never get tired of it. I find the mid-century Australian setting appealing and the characters interesting and have chosen to ignore the scandal surrounding its’ star.
Melting Me Softly (2019) – Even though it has a sci-fi premise of two people who are cryogenically frozen and wake up twenty years later, this is definitely more of a comedy. The show is certainly not fussed about making the science seem realistic. Of course seeing two people adjust to the passages of time does lend itself to humorous moments of which there are plenty, many of which are just over the top ridiculous. Fortunately, I tend to enjoy screwball style comedy. They could have dropped the whole villain story line and just focused on the re-adjustment of the two leads and their loved ones. I would have loved to see even more of the heroine and her family as they were so loving and sweet together, especially her special needs brother. I’m a big fan of actor Ji Chang Wook. Although he’s more popular for his action roles, I also find him delightful in comedies as his timing is impeccable and his bewildered facial expressions always make me giggle. Reviews of this series aren’t overly positive, but if you don’t take it seriously and enjoy a good laugh, it’s very entertaining.
Hospital Playlist (2020-2021) – Aww, this show left me with a big smile on my face and a happy heart. It did take time to really get invested in the characters, but once I did, it felt like catching up with old friends. I struggled at first until I quit comparing it to my favorite medical drama Dr. Romantic. Despite sharing a medical setting, HP is totally different, because it is more a slice of life drama, has a slower pace and no antagonist. The five main friends truly seem like old friends with all the back history and comfort level you would expect. There are so many little blink and you miss ’em comedic moments and larger hilarious scenes like Jung-won teaching his mom and her friends to play Mafia which had me laughing until I cried. With a large cast, at times I had trouble distinguishing the minor characters, although a few supporting characters really ended up endearing themselves to me. I loved Min-ha the cheerful OBGYN resident, Jae-hak the easy going cardiologist doctor and cute little Woo-joo. It was also very interesting to see how all the different roles in the hospital function and work together, from the nurses to interns, residents and doctors. There were some very touching patient stories throughout the series as well which allowed some of the action to be seen from their perspectives. I will admit to skipping over some of the technical and operational scenes. Season one was fantastic but in season two I did struggle at times to maintain my interest level. It was still good but lacking in some of the humor and group scenes that made season one such a joy. And also the episodes tended to be longer and more drawn out. But overall, I can agree with the hype for this show.
Memorist (2020) -Crime dramas are not my first choice, but this one about a detective with the ability to read others’ memories investigating a series of crimes by a villain who can erase memories intrigued me. Honestly, I was on the edge of my seat the whole series, with all the twists and unexpected turns. There is some violence and trigger scenes, but it is balanced out by some lighter moments of humor courtesy of Detective Dong Baek’s two friends and fellow detectives. Yoo Seung Ho is adorable as always as the hero whose loyalty to justice causes pain to his tender heart for the victims. He is a person of integrity who could exploit his gift but refuses the temptation. Of course, in the course of his investigation he discovers and is also obstructed by corruption in high places, which is something that is easily relatable to most people and really makes you root for him even more.
Lighter and Princess (2022) – It’s rare that I find a Chinese drama that can hold my attention all the way through, but this young adult drama with a revenge plot managed to do so. This is quite a feat since I’m not a fan of revenge themes and the male lead is more of an anti-hero than a romantic one. He’s arrogant, stubborn and sometimes rude. But he’s also brilliant, creative and has a soft spot for his Princess. Aside from these few redeeming qualities of his and his inner pain, I’m not sure what she sees in him. But I really appreciate that the heroine accepts him for who he is without trying to change him or place expectations on him. It really shows how strong she is and I admire her for it because she is not ignorant at all of his abrasive side. The two leads have fantastic chemistry together, so much so that even their staring scenes feel rather natural as well as full of the tensions between them. A lot of their interactions happen while working together as computer programmers and the writers did a great job making their work seem interesting and understandable. Their reason for revenge is sadly personal thanks to the betrayal of their close friend and co-worker. The betrayer’s reasons are equally heartbreaking and easy to understand, though not forgive. L&P also has a fabulous soundtrack which only enhances a story which I will not soon forget.
Happy Once Again (2016) -I hate it when a show has such great potential and then doesn’t fully utilize it. This one started out so silly and ridiculous before morphing into a more serious, but uneven tone. In showcasing the lives of four female friends in their thirties, it also delves into some deeper topics such as adultery, single fatherhood, remarriage and illness and does a fairly good job portraying how these aspects can affect relationships. I really loved that it shows that love is worth fighting for even when it isn’t perfect. I think if the show had done a better job balancing between fun and serious, and if the characters personalities hadn’t been so variable, this could have gone on my favorites list. Thankfully, some great casting, including Jang Nara and Jung Kyung Ho helped elevate the overall tone. And at the very least it left me with a thought to ponder and remember, “the one who loves most, wins.”
Fall in Love (2021) – After finishing Lighter and Princess, I found this historical Chinese drama starring the same actress. It is set in the tumultuous times of 1920’s Shanghai, when various military commanders are fighting for control of territory. The show has a theatrical feel and is a little overdramatic in some of the performances. The sets also feel a bit like the backlot sets you find in old Hollywood pictures. Despite this, I really enjoyed the first half of the series and would have been satisfied if it had ended around episode 22 when the plot about the heroine’s family tragedy was resolved and she and the male lead went public with their romance. Their relationship in the first half of this drama is so much fun. They are both very intelligent which makes watching them go from bickering enemies, to playful sparring partners to a couple who develop a deep love and loyalty between them so rewarding. Unfortunately, the last half of the drama focuses more on the battle of dominance among the differing military leaders and political factions which also drags the central romance into an angst filled spiral which I did not enjoy at all. Additionally, some of the side characters were annoying and received too much screen time. I ended up skipping through large sections of the last episodes and was happy when everything was finally resolved.
Encounter (2018) – Watching this show is akin to a leisurely stroll in a natural place full of waning sunlight. It feels soft, languid and just catches you up in the beauty of the moment. Everything from the pace, the lighting, the camera work to the background music enhances this magical atmosphere. This is most definitely one of the more romantic shows I’ve seen in a while as it features one man’s unconditional love for a woman who seemingly has everything, but in reality is trapped in her circumstances. I was so happy to cheer on Song Hye Kyo’s character in her quiet fight for independence against a tyrannical ex mother in law. And Park Bo Gum was fabulous as the free-spirited and steady man who is willing to love her through anything. But as beautiful as their love story is, I also found the heroine’s journey towards freedom and finding her voice equally moving. I’ve always believed that love is the greatest privilege there is, because it gives us security, acceptance and a sense of belonging which allows us to face the challenges of life and this show definitely aligns with my belief.
Well-Intended Love (2019) – What a hot mess of a show. I read positive reviews before hand and was convinced that this Netflix Chinese drama about a contract marriage was worth my time. I admit it was entertaining at first, but soon became tedious with its’ outrageous plot devices which ranged from amnesia to hypnotizing to drugging to kidnapping. I was all for the main couple until the revelation of how the male lead created a false circumstance to trap the heroine into marriage using love as an excuse. Thankfully, once she found out she stood up for herself and held him accountable, but it kind of spoiled the rest of their romance for me. Eventually, I ended up skipping through the last half of the show.
Love With Flaws (2019) – There were a few things that almost put me off this one altogether, specifically the crass humor in the early episodes and the actor playing the male lead just doesn’t do it for me. But I’m glad I stuck with it, because the story and the characters grew on me more and more as the series progressed. The romance between childhood sweethearts was complicated by the woman’s disgust of handsome men and the man’s obsession with his appearance, both of which are rooted in a shared childhood trauma. Watching them overcome their issues and rediscover what they appreciate about each other was interesting, especially since it allowed the story to delve into their psychological issues. Just as fascinating were all the quirky supporting characters, including the heroine’s annoyingly handsome brothers and the two girls she practically adopts into their household. The love between the four siblings was so sweet and even made me tear up a couple of times. But the real star of the show is her best friend played by Kim Seul Gi, one of the best supporting actresses in Kdramas. She really brought the warmth and humor that made Love With Flaws so endearing.
The Thieves (2012) – I love a good heist film and had high hopes for this Korean picture starring some fairly big names. Unfortunately, this one failed to hold my attention well. Basically a large group of people of different Asian origins band together for one big job. The first three quarters of the film took too long to establish the characters and and the core of the plot. I was fairly bored but forced myself to stick with it which eventually paid off when all the action occurs in the last quarter of the film. None of the characters were very likable so I wasn’t able to connect with any of them. The aesthetic has a seventies vibe that was hot and a bit gritty. The only character that I can really remember at this time is the one played by the beautiful Jun Ji-hyun as the acrobat who is smarter than she appears.
The Spies Who Loved Me (2020) – I don’t know why I haven’t heard more about this show, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. With a little bit of everything including intrigue, espionage, mystery, romance, drama and heartbreak, it kept me on my toes. I adored the plot about a wedding dress designer who discovers both her ex-husband and current husband are spies. She is then forced to deal with both of them when her friend is murdered. The adorable Yoo In Na is a favorite of mine and this is one of her better roles as a woman dealing with the lies and betrayal of the men she loved/loves. She is admirable in her independence, resourcefulness, bravery and loyalty. Her two co-stars Lim Ju Hwan and Eric Mun also gave great performances as the men whose jobs force them to make morally ambiguous choices but who both truly love her. I’ve never been so conflicted about a love triangle before. I started out with a clear favorite but by the end both had won me over and I couldn’t decide between the two men. I was honestly heartbroken for the one who couldn’t be with her. I was also pleasantly surprised by the way the show focused on and explored the topic of marriage. Through the failure of her first marriage and the challenges of her second, the heroine reflects a lot on what marriage really means in a way that is more realistic than romantic. Her voiceovers about her failures and discoveries through marriage were pretty insightful.
So Ends Our Night (1941) – I watched this for Fredric March only to discover his co-stars, Glenn Ford and Margaret Sullavan get more screen time, which I found somewhat disappointing. It’s a rather dreary drama about the plight of refugees without a passport. While I sympathized with their plight, the obvious propaganda angle felt insincere and dimmed my response a bit. While all three leads are good actors, I wouldn’t say any of them had their best roles or performances here.
Stablemates (1938) – With both Mickey Rooney and Wallace Beery starring, I had my doubts about this film as both can get hammy in their acting. But thankfully they both gave sincere performances as two down on their luck characters who manage to form a special bond while rehabilitating a thoroughbred. It’s nice to see a horse film which focuses more on the relationships of those in the stables than on the aspect of horse racing. Not only do we get to see the restoration of the horse, but also of Beery’s character who starts out as washed up alcoholic vet and ends up with an adopted son and a new sense of purpose and responsibility. This is one of both of their best but underrated films in my opinion.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – I think this is my second re-watch of this version which I always find fun and entertaining. I love the stylization and the cast. Plus, I have a soft spot for anything Kenneth Branaugh is involved in and since he both directed and starred in this film, it’s a win for me. I wish I could say the same about the follow-up Death on the Nile.
The Mask of Zorro (1998) – It had been ages since I watch this and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it. I’ve seen other versions of this story and this remains my favorite, probably because it was the first one I had seen. Catherine Zeta Jones is at her most beautiful as the daughter of the original Zorro and love interest of the replacement and Antonio Banderas is entertaining as the new Zorro. They are joined by Anthony Hopkins who can do no wrong in my book. Pretty much everything about this film is beautiful including the soundtrack.
Ticket to Paradise (2022) – I’m a little doubtful these days about rom-coms. My expectations are usually so high and then I end up disappointed. But this one was mildly entertaining and better than I thought. It’s held together by Julia Roberts and George Clooney’s onscreen chemistry as bickering exes who unite to stop their daughter’s wedding. The beautiful island setting also adds to the enjoyment.
A Tourist’s Guide to Love (2023) – This is your average rom-com which involves and uptight woman who is dumped by her boyfriend. She takes a trip and learns to loosen up and discovers herself while falling in love. Rachel Leigh Cook is the familiar starring face along with relative newcomer Scott Ly who plays her English speaking, free-spirited tour guide. Based on his performance here, I would be interested in seeing Ly in more films. But the real star of the show is the country of Vietnam whose natural beauty is on full display. I have never had a desire to visit the country, but now I do. I love that the story highlights the country and it’s culture in such a respectful way.
Hallmark: A Picture of Her, Love in the Maldives, Summer Villa, As Luck Would Have It, Marry Go Round, Love at First Glance, The Blessing Bracelet, A Novel Romance, Falling for Vermont, A Professional Bridesmaid, A Pinch of Portugal