December 2023 Quickie Reviews

december 2023 BREAkdown
  • 19 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 9 foreign films/series
  • 7 re-watches
  • 2 tv series
  • 1 classic film

Biggest Disappointment:  New Years Blues

Trillion Game

Favorite Discovery: So many to choose from this month, but I can’t quit thinking about Trillion Game!

television series

RFDS Season 2 – Maybe it’s been awhile but this season’s medical episodes feel a lot more tense and stressful, so I’ve had to take breaks in between episodes. At one point I considered quitting due to the deeply emotional aspects created by what happens to some of the characters. Every single one of them is dealing with personal challenges this time around.

Harry Wild Season 2 – I liked the second season even better than the first. I think everyone is more settled into their parts now and I understand who the characters are and how they related to each other. The continuing relationship between Harry and Fergus is the highlight of the show. And I love seeing how her affection for Fergus softens Harry a bit.

foreign films and series

My Happy Marriage (2023) – Clips of this Japanese film caught my eye on Youtube. It’s based on a series of novels that is a combination of fantasy and romance. It features nobility with various supernatural abilities and a heroine whose abusive family marries her off to a man rumored to be cold and fearsome. Honestly, I feel like I saw most of the movie just in the brief clips I saw on Youtube. Watching it in full didn’t add much to my experience as the plot and characters lacked depth and development. If I had not read up on the origin story, I probably wouldn’t have understood much of anything. However, the two leads really save this film. They have strong chemistry and really made me feel for them despite the weak script.

Only For Love (2023) – I wish I could say I loved this modern Chinese romance more. It has so much going for it, a good cast, believable chemistry between the leads, appealing second and third couples. It even managed to make the business and finance work place settings and plots somewhat interesting. However, it dragged on way too long and would have really benefited if the story had been told in about half the amount of episodes. It’s really worth watching for it’s two stars. They are both experts at their craft as well as generating heat in their romantic scenes. I became frustrated with the back and forth between them and their lack of clear communication, which took up a good portion of the series length, but once they finally get together, they are fun to watch.

She Was Pretty (2015) – I liked this highly rated rom-com, but I can’t say I loved it. Mostly that has to do with the fact that I’m not a fan of the lead actress emoting style. It’s a bit too shrill and over the top for me. Otherwise, I didn’t have any complaints. I enjoyed the workplace setting in the editorial department of a fashion magazine and was so happy that there was no bullying or workplace villains. Everyone worked together in a harmonious way. This show shined in the relationships. Despite my issues with the lead actress, the writers did a fantastic job writing her relationships with her best friend, first love interest and second male lead. It’s refreshing to see a healthy and supportive female friendship on screen. The romantic pairing leaned sweet and innocent and I particularly loved seeing Park Seo Joon’s wide happy smiles as the hero. But my favorite character was the second male lead whose quirky, joking, but honorable nature totally won me over. The actor did a great job balancing the line between being romantically interested in the heroine, without pressuring her and accepting that their relationship would not advance beyond friendship. He is definitely one of the most memorable tv characters I’ve seen this year. And it also has one of the most adorable endings ever!

Trillion Game (2023) – A shy computer genius and a charismatic, amoral gambler team up on a start-up business and then take on a corporate giant in this fun Japanese drama on Netflix. Fast-paced and unpredictable, this show was addicting and highly entertaining. It’s just crackling with energy! Though there are many implausible things about the plot and characters, I didn’t mind. But I do wish there had been more character development on the amoralistic Haru. He was so interesting and I really wanted to know more about what makes him tick. He was well matched in his female counterpart who also operates in shades of gray but has her own moral code. She’s shrewd, sexy, and cutthroat herself. There’s definitely attraction between them, but it’s nice that they don’t automatically end up together.  Having seen two of the three leads in The Happy Marriage earlier this month, it was a revelation to see them play completely different roles in this series. Honestly, it was hard to believe I was watching the same actors. I’m looking forward to the next season already!

Perfect Marriage Revenge (2023) – In a Cinderella inspired story, a kind young woman gets the chance to re-live the past year of her life and uses it get revenge against her awful family in this delightful series. I’m not usually one for revenge plots, but this one never takes itself too seriously and does a great job prioritizing the romance of the contract marriage over the revenge angle.  The two leads had wonderful chemistry together. I really enjoyed watching the heroine, who had experienced mental and emotional abuse, grow to trust her new husband. He was written a bit too perfect and I found it hard to believe that he had been in love with her before formally meeting her, but they were so engaging together, I easily overlooked these minor flaws.

The Matchmakers (2023) – Due to a couple of long interruptions, it took me a while to get into this cute little drama about the widowed son in law of the king and a noblewoman who join forces to marry off a trio of spinsters on the king’s order. This show has just the right blend of humor and more serious moments. It also has a pace that skips along and side characters who are rather delightful. I love how it uses familiar tropes but in a unique way. And I was very tickled by the fact that the hero ends up being the damsel in distress, constantly in need of rescue from the heroine. He’s so prissy yet masculine. The female lead is inspirational; clever, thoughtful, brave and determined. My one complaint is one of the matches between an adult woman and her teenage fiancé. That ten year age gap felt a bit icky. Aside from that this was a fun watch.

Fake It Til You Make It (2023) – An elegant and sophisticated modern drama with warm, rich tones. It features a very slow burn romance between a couple that start out as solid friends, but with a hidden edge of attraction between them. Despite the fact that the two are skittish in admitting their feelings, the maturity of the two leads is rather refreshing and something not frequently seen. I was especially drawn in by the lead actor who I’ve never seen before but who has an understated charisma and sexiness. I am definitely interested in checking out his other work. It also explores the lives of women in the workforce, the pressures they face and the sacrifices they make. I really appreciated how despite questionable actions taken by some of the characters, none of them were demonized, but their perspectives and reasons were shown. This made them seem very human and relatable.  My complaints in the past with Chinese dramas were completely erased by this show. It had very well written characters, realistic situations and good pacing with few wasted scenes. In fact, I would say the overall production of this series is one of the best in all the Asian dramas I’ve seen to date. Not to mention one of the best soundtracks with its’ smooth, sexy tones.

Once We Get Married (2021) – A piece of cotton candy fluff about a contract marriage where both parties start out hating each other but eventually fall in to love. I think this one wins the award for the most shots of close stares and kissing scenes. There really isn’t much substance but the two leads sell it well with their rapport. I love his soft glances and smiles that leak out when she’s not looking. And thankfully she shows some backbone. Their bickering is pretty cute. With such a thin plot though, eventually the romance in this wasn’t enough to hold my attention and I started fast forwarding through many scenes towards the end.

New Years Blues (2021) – This Korean film tells the stories of several different seemingly unrelated characters and explores the dynamics of their romantic relationships. It stars several familiar faces of Korean cinema. It’s not a bad film by any means, but it is nothing more than a time filler and I doubt I will remember much about it.

classics

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) – This lesser known holiday classic has quickly become one of my favorites in recent years. Using a bleak story thread of homelessness due to post-war housing shortages, it manages to convey a message of hope and humor by showcasing the best of humanity. It not only turns negative circumstances into positive ones, but creates emotional resonance by turning strangers into family. It just makes me happy.

Post 1980’s

The Family Man (2000) – This is an old holiday favorite of mine that I had not seen in a while. Kind of a reverse version of It’s a Wonderful Life. It has a bittersweet edge to it thanks to the glimpse of what could have been. But I still enjoy it.

Something From Tiffany’s (2022) – Went in blind to this holiday flick on Amazon and ended up rather charmed by it. The writers did a good job making the two leads, who are both in other relationships, sympathetic in their development of feelings toward each other. And I LOVED how the beautifully filmed cinematography in New York City. It’s warm and glowy and features the city at its’ best.

All I Want For Christmas (1991) – A classic 90’s Christmas film. I mean, how can you go wrong with Lauren Bacall, New York City and story about two kids trying to reunite their divorce parents for the holiday? Especially when those two kids are adorable and have a close sibling bond. Since this is one of my mom’s favorite’s, we watch it every year. This year I noticed what I thought were a few nods to some black and white classics that I hadn’t before.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) – A newer Christmas classic that I now watch annually. I love the rich tones and settings as well as the hopeful messaging. It honors Dickens’ tendency towards realistic and bleak settings and circumstances, but never goes too dark.

The Man From Snowy River (1982) – This long time family favorite never gets old and watching it together with my family ups the nostalgia and enjoyment factors.

The Holiday (2006) – This is another newer classic I never tire of watching. It has such a great script with so many good one liners.

North & South (2004) -I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this mini-series. Despite it being rather bleak and holding numerous sorrowful moments, it remains compelling to me. I’m sure outstanding performances by its’ cast are a big factor in that.

Hallmark Movies: Trading Christmas,  Angel of Christmas, Time For Her to Come Home for Christmas, Christmas in Angel Falls, A Not So Royal Christmas, Time for Him to Come Home for Christmas, Love at the Christmas Table, To All A Good Night, Miss Christmas, Christmas Island, Project Christmas Wish, Christmas with Holly, A Season for Family, Christmas On the Bayou, A Bride for Christmas, My Norwegian Holiday, Gingerbread Miracle,  Sealed With A List, Welcome to Christmas, Christmas in Tahoe, Christmas in Mississippi, Christmas in Vienna, Navigating Christmas, Signed Sealed Delivered Christmas

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One Reply to “December 2023 Quickie Reviews”

  1. It’s been forever since I watched All I Want for Christmas or The Family Man but I always did like them both; I didn’t watch The Holiday this year; and I need to rewatch ‘Fifth Avenue,’ too since I think I enjoyed it. I also need to watch Something from Tiffany’s (for the first time) and get back to Harry Wild. I think I only saw one or two episodes of season one there.

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