january 2023 BREAKDOWN
- 17 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 3 TV series
- 9 foreign films/series
- 5 rewatches
- 1 documentary
Biggest Disappointment: Abyss
Favorite Discovery: Love Like the Galaxy
Call the Midwife Holiday Special (2022)– Hmm, I didn’t write down my thoughts on this one after watching it and now I can’t remember much about it, other than the fact that Matthew and Trixie finally got engaged, which I was thrilled about. But this show never disappoints me.
Only Murders in the Building Season 1 & 2 (2021-)– My mom and I binged both seasons of this one in two weekends. Steve Martin and Martin Short are joined by Selena Gomez in what is an odd, but endearing trio on screen. Who would have thought? There was so much to love about this one, the amateur investigation trio, the fly by the seat of their pants podcasting, all the quirky residents of the apartment building, and the funny. So much funny, but in an offbeat way.
Mum (2016-2019) – I enjoyed this short comedy series just as much the second time around as I did on my first watch. Lesley Manville, an actress I really admire, plays the title role as the only calm, sane member of a family full of self-absorbed people. There are so many funny moments, but also equally as many frustrating ones thanks to all the clueless characters.
The Automat (2021) – Everything I know about automats I learned from classic film, so I expected to learn more about the marriage of these two, Instead, this documentary gave an in depth look at the history of the Horn & Hardt automats that operated in Philadelphia and New York City. One thing that stood out to me was how forward thinking the leadership was. They were able to be cost effective and control the quality of their food by using one large facility to make their food and then distribute it to the stores. They were also progressive in welcoming all customers regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Thanks to interviews with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Colin Powell, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and others, I also learned how important the automat was in their memories, but also as a place where they could meet others and discuss important topics. Thanks to old movies I’ve always wished I had the opportunity to experience the automat. Sadly, that will never happen. But it was interesting to learn more about them.
FOREIGN FILMS & SERIES
Bad Prosecutor (2022) -One of those rare legal/action series that was brave enough not to include a love line. Instead it tells the story of a chaotic prosecutor whose passion for justice leads him to use some creative, sometimes unethical methods to take down bad guys, The first several episodes were very strong, but then the plot seemed to move in circles for a little while. However, I loved the prosecutor as played by Kyung-soo Do and his little band of allies which included his more ethical superior and a few criminal friends. All of their scenes together were fun. The fight and action scenes were also really great.
Abyss (2019) -A hybrid murder mystery/rom-com, I wish that this had been one or the other. The transition between the two genres was jarring and just not handled well. Also, the rules around the supernatural/fantasy element of this series were not explained well and didn’t make much sense at all. However as a fan of Park Bo Young, I made myself watch. She is great in anything and was my sole reason to finish this series. It was also interesting to see her co-star Ahn Hyo Seop whom I’ve seen in a few other dramas that aired after this one. Watching him in Abyss, I can see how much he has grown as an actor since then. I ended up skipping through most of the scenes that didn’t include the leads, but they were pretty cute together.
Bride of the Water God (2017) – I’ve had my eye on this one for awhile. The premise about a god who comes to earth to fulfill a mission using the help of his human servant was interesting. It started out strong for me. Nam Joo Hyuk as the water god had this smoldering gaze that was downright sexy, but over time it didn’t seem like his performance grew much past that. It tickled me though every time his female servant stood up to him and bossed him around. Her lack of respect for his position was so humorous yet it worked towards making him a better man/god. Aside from the two leads, the other characters were hit or miss for me, but for the most part I didn’t find them all that interesting. The whole story line about the heroine’s abandonment by her father was given way too much focus in the plot and really dragged it down. The demi-god, who was half human, half god ended up being the most fascinating one of them all and had the best character arc and development. I actually kind of wish he had ended up with the girl. The show itself was really pretty which made it more enjoyable to watch.
Angel’s Last Mission: Love (2019) – There were some things I really liked about this supernatural drama and some I really didn’t. The plot about an angel falling for the human he is assigned to started out really interesting, but then it got dragged into all this melodrama about whether they could actually be together. The antagonists were stereotypical and I really HATED that God was depicted as a villain. The romance was ok. I actually found the supporting character of the theater director who was a former angel more interesting than the angelic hero himself. On the up side, I loved all the scenes featuring the ballet dances and the practices. It’s such a beautiful art which requires extreme strength and discipline. The best thing about this show was Hye Sun Shin’s exceptional performance as the haughty, brittle ballerina who is eventually softened by love. She is definitely reason enough to watch this series.
Falling for Innocence (2015) – I really wanted this to be better than it was. I was intrigued by the premise about an executive secretary whose jerk of a boss ends up with her dead fiance’s transplanted heart. The heart retains its’ cellular memory and the boss experiences personality changes and an irresistible attraction to his secretary. There was so much that could have been done with that story line and a great focus would have been on the emotional growth and development of the boss as well as the conflict between the two over whether their feelings were real or influenced by the heart. However, it got bogged down with a poorly written villain and too much attention on the goings on of the company everyone works for. I did really enjoy lead actor Jung Kyong Ho in the lead. He was so believable as the heartless corporate “serial killer” who has a literal change of heart and becomes a big puppy dog over his secretary. So cute!
Love Between Fairy and Devil (2022) – What a great surprise this was! I had yet to find a Chinese series that impressed me. But I ended up becoming obsessed with this fantasy drama. Obsessed. There was a wide range of characters explored as well as great world building featuring three different realms with back history and political maneuvering. But the highlight and focus is the love story between a weak, naive fairy who ends up bound to a cruel immortal leader who has had his emotions destroyed. The performances by the two leads were outstanding and really sold what was a bit of a cliched love story that defies extreme personality differences, time and even death.
Love Like the Galaxy (2022) -Who would have thought I would be two for two on Chinese dramas so far this month? As much as I loved Love Between Fairy and Devil, this one even surpasses it. It’s a historical romance drama which was a really immersive experience thanks to wonderfully detailed settings and costumes, beautiful cinematography, a complex narrative encompassing family relationships, royal politics, revenge and an epic love story between an brave and reckless young woman and the adopted son of the emperor who is also an accomplished military general. Lei Wu and Zhao Lusi could set a city on fire with their onscreen chemistry. As the feared and cold General Ling Buyi, Lei Wu is completely badass in all of his action scenes, even the brutal ones. Plus he has this really regal bearing and posture that clearly portrays his disciplined persona. But he is equally as convincing as a man who falls in love at first sight. The way he looks at the heroine alternating between warmly tender and hot with passion was swoon worthy. Zhao Lusi is equally convincing as a woman whose fight to be independent causes her to act recklessly and stupidly sometimes. But the depiction of her character’s growth from immature to a more tempered, thoughtful but still fiercely courageous and loyal woman is rather beautiful. I also really enjoyed all the familial aspects and relationship dynamics of this series both with her family, especially her dad and brothers, and his adopted royal family. It’s rather funny to see how the emperor dotes on his adopted son, even at the expense of his own children. At 56 episodes, this is the longest foreign series I’ve ever watched, but it left such a strong impression, I immediately watched it again a second time. I am confident in saying this will be one of my all time favorites.
You Are My Glory (2021) – As long as I was on a roll with Chinese dramas, I decided to give this contemporary romance a try, especially since it had high reviews. I will say it was better than my previous experiences with the same genre, but definitely not as addicting as the other two Chinese shows I watched this month. It’s a love story between an actress and an aerospace engineer who were former classmates. She always had a crush on him. They re-connect and she once again tries to woo him, while he fights his ideas that romance will interfere with his career. Once they finally get together their romance is really sweet and also passionate. The two leads had a great natural rapport and I was entertained by all their scenes together, However, I did find myself skipping through some of the gaming scenes in the earlier episodes as well as his work scenes which bored me with scientific talk.
Love in the Moonlight (2016) -This one was all kinds of cute, thanks to leads Park Bo Gum and Kim Yoo Jung as the crown prince and the female disguised as a male eunuch whom he falls for. They are both so charming and even mischievous, although she becomes more of a damsel in distress as the plot wears on. I loved that for most of the run time, the series doesn’t take itself too seriously, whether in regards to historical accuracy, a believable story arc or its’ light humorous tone. I also really enjoyed the bromance aspect between the crown prince and two of the male supporting characters as well as the one between the heroine and her two eunuch friends. Sadly, the last couple of episodes went serious and really bogged down the momentum of the whole show and the resolution was just too incredible to really believe. But I still found it worth watching overall.
Persuasion (2022) – I know most people don’t like this latest version of Jane Austen’s story, but since I’m not a purist, I find it cheeky and fun.
Anne of Green Gables (1985) & Anne of Avonlea (1987) – If it’s January, it must be time for my annual re-watch of this series. It’s my happy place.
Leap Year (2010) – I like to revisit this rom-com every so often. Despite it’s imperfections, Matthew Goode and Amy Adams sell their imperfect characters and the far-fetched romance.
Hallmark Movies: Angel of Christmas, The Christmas Bow, Hanukkah on Rye, A Big Fat Family Christmas, The Wedding Veil Expectations, The Wedding Veil Inspiration, The Wedding Veil Journey, Just in Time for Christmas, Christmas Class Reunion. Family History Mysteries, Christmas with the Darlings, Gingerbread Miracle (Favorites highlighted)