January 2024 Quickie Reviews

January 2024 BREAkdown
  • 22 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 7 foreign films/series
  • 9 re-watches
  • 3 tv series

Biggest Disappointment: Miss Scarlet and the Duke

Favorite Discovery: Northern Exposure

Television Series

Moonlighting Season 1 I’ve heard about this show for years, but never had an opportunity to watch it until now. I am absolutely charmed by it. The humor reminds me of what I usually find in screwball comedy classics and the chemistry between Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd as opposites who end up in business together is fantastic. I’ve never seen Willis in a role quite like this one before and I love his character’s irreverence and unflappability. It’s fun watching him needle and then schmooze Shepherd.

Miss Scarlet and the Duke Season 4 – I’m becoming less satisfied with this show as time goes on. I am seeing very little growth in the female character and growing more impatient with her headstrong, self-centered personality. I am also not happy that the second titular character has received less screen time the past two seasons. And I fail to see why he puts up with Miss Scarlet. Even though we finally get a romantic confession, I can’t get excited about it because he deserves better.  On top of that, one of my favorite character’s (Moses) was completely missing this series. I’m seriously debating dropping this show altogether.

Northern Exposure Season 1– I have very vague memories of this show and after many years of waiting, it is finally available to stream! It’s so strange to see so many familiar faces in their younger years and I’m loving all the quirky residents of the small Alaskan town this is set in. The fish out of water plot of the New York City doctor adjusting to his new life is played for laughs but in a natural way and I really love the antagonistic relationship he has with the Maggie, the bush pilot. I’m finding everything about this show delightful.

Foreign films & series

Mr. & Mrs. Chen (2023) – Reminiscent of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, this Chinese drama features a pair of husband and wife spies, neither of whom know the other is engaged in undercover work. It started out very strong for me. But since I don’t know much about Asian history and politics during this pre-WWII period, I didn’t understand everything that was happening and quickly lost interest in these scenes. Where this series shines is in the joint scenes between the married spies. I wish the show had focused more on them and less on all the government talk and politics. I only finished because of my crush on Elvis Han.

The Story of Park’s Marriage Contract (2023) – I thought this was an absolutely delightful little rom-com until the last couple of episodes when it shifted to a more serious and dramatic tone.  I’ve always loved time-travel stories, and there aren’t as many like this where they travel forward in time. The female lead was so endearing in her quest for freedom in her own time and then in the future as she discovered and explored a whole new world. And as she was a clothing designer it was so interesting seeing the ways she modernized the hanbok after traveling to the future. The two leads were so adorable together and their adjustment to their contract marriage was rather humorous. It was a bit disillusioning that the antagonists got off easy after engaging in illegal and immoral behavior though.

Meet Yourself (2023)  After the death of her best friend and experiencing job burnout, a young woman leaves Beijing to re-evaluate her life choices and heal in remote town.  Featuring a lovely village setting peopled with interesting characters this series highlights their individual journeys as well as the relationships they develop. With a very leisurely pace, this slice of life drama is an immersive experience which made me feel like I was part of this found family, their community and their plans to revitalize their town. The down side to the slow pace is it may cause some people to lose interest. But I appreciate how thoughtful and thought provoking the show is in its’ exploration of what is valuable and meaningful in life and relationships. The country setting is beautifully filmed and cultural aspects of daily life are seamlessly woven in. The beautiful soundtrack only enhances the whole experience.

Don’t Dare to Dream/Jealousy Incarnate (2016) – There was much to cause me to dislike this series. I don’t agree with the premise that jealousy equals love and the series ran several episodes longer than most. There were way too many  characters, several of which got short shrift in screen time and development.  They were also highly flawed with the male lead as the worst of them with his proud, self-centered and egotistical nature. And yet somehow, I was never bored and stayed invested in what was happening. The performances went a long way in redeeming this show as the actors portrayed the characters in a way that allowed me to empathize with them, despite their many flaws. I did find the love triangle a little uncomfortable, especially when the three decided to live together, since the two men were best friends. I loved the journey the male lead went through. He really took a couple of severe hits to his ego being diagnosed with breast cancer as a public figure and losing the love of the heroine after three years. Even though he didn’t change significantly, he did learn how to humble himself for his loved ones which was really moving. I also really enjoyed the frenemy relationship between the two moms fighting over custody of the daughter they shared with their ex-husband. That was entertaining to watch.

My Demon (2023)  – A guilty pleasure type of show which is carried almost entirely by the sizzling chemistry between the show’s two leads. Every scene they have together is beautiful, mesmerizing and addicting. Despite the distraction of their combined beauty, the two leads give really good and emotional performances as a cold, impenetrable heiress and the equally arrogant and cold demon whose powers are accidentally transferred to her.  I really loved the juxtaposition of their remote and unemotional public exteriors contrasted with the joyous innocence they display towards each other as they fall in love. And that is just the two of them, I haven’t even mentioned the gorgeous costumes or sets. This show also boasts some pretty stunning and creative cinematography as well. Though it is a bit short of substance and logic, I wasn’t too bothered. What did bother me some was the lack of theological accuracy in the portrayal of God and the demonic. But seeing as how the show didn’t take itself seriously, I didn’t either.

Kissing the Ring Finger (2023) – A pleasant and mildly entertaining contract marriage romance between a poor girl and a rich heir from Japan. It was rather pleasantly surprising that the heir’s parents were not opposed to the marriage due to the heroine’s poverty like most Asian dramas tend to portray. And the motivation behind the antagonist’s actions against the couple did not stem from evil, but was a selfish sort of love. The couple’s bohemian style home decor was probably the most memorable part of this whole show for me. I also really loved the heroine’s large family whose lack of material possessions was overshadowed by their abundance of love for one another.

The Good Bad Mother (2023) – This was a bit difficult for me to watch at times due to the mother-son relationship which often felt distant and even cruel at times. I think family relationships are one of those cultural issues that are lost in translation for me. I also found many of the characters and their actions frustrating and some characters completely unnecessary to the plot. The young twins were by far my favorites and definitely served as comic relief to lighten up what was an otherwise heavy story. Aside from that, this was a very well done production and the acting by the two leads was fabulous. I was glad that the ending was overall a happy one and that everyone got what they deserved.

Post 1980’s

Jane Eyre (2006) – I will argue to the death that this is the best version of Charlotte Bronte’s famous tale. Even though the two actors playing Jane and Rochester are too attractive for their roles, they embody the characters better than anything else I’ve seen on screen. I never tire of it.

Just Like Heaven (2005) – I like to re-watch this cute romantic fantasy starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo every couple of years. It’s one of my guilty pleasures.

Room With a View (1985) I hadn’t seen this adaptation in so long, that I had forgotten a lot of it. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I remembered, but the costumes and scenic settings were beautiful.

The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) – A criminally under rated film, this is one of my personal favorites about a working class caddy who enters a prestigious golf tournament and plays against professionals and his personal hero. The story dives into the issue of classism in depicting this real life historical event and figures.  The hero stands against incredible pressure and prejudice which helps to show how golf truly is a game of mental control. There are some really amazing and creative camera shots that are like works of art. A truly inspiring movie.

Secretariat (2010) – I hadn’t seen this in years and I had forgotten how uplifting and exciting this story is. I’ve never had any interest in the racing world, but I do love a good underdog story like this one.

While You Were Sleeping (1995) – This is one of my all time favorites. I never get tired of the family, their interactions and multiple conversations. I do really detest Sandra Bullock’s wardrobe however.

Maybe I Do (2023) – Honestly, this had a very unpleasant plot. A young couple who disagree about whether to get married get advice from their parents who are all simultaneously having affairs with each other without realizing it. But despite that, it was pretty funny, which saved me from absolutely hating it.

See How They Run (2022) – I really enjoyed this cozy mystery the first time I saw it in the theater, and a second viewing hasn’t changed my opinion. Even though it is not an Agatha Christie adaptation it revolves around the author and one of her stories. Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan are an inspired bit of casting as a jaded detective and his newbie assistant, and they are supported very well by the rest of the all-star cast. I also loved the stylized appearance of the show from the costumes to the sets to the color tones.

Heidi (1993) – This is my mom’s favorite version and I can see why. At just under four hours, it has more time to develop the story and include details that are generally left out. It was filmed on site in Austria which really helped immerse me in the place and setting of the story. It also features a great cast including Jane Seymour, Patricia Neal and Jason Robards, but the little girl who plays Heidi is the best of them all. She is adorable as the titular character.

The Rewrite (2014) – Meh. I feel like I’ve seen this story a hundred times before. A once successful, now jaded professional tries to revive his career by teaching at a college where he ends up being inspired by his students. I also feel like I’ve seen Hugh Grant play this same type of character before. Or maybe it’s just that his acting range isn’t all that large.

Queen Bees (2021) – I was hoping this comedy about an elderly women who temporarily moves into a retirement community would be as good as Quartet, one of my favorite elder comedies. Sadly,  a great cast including Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margaret, Christopher Lloyd and James Caan could not elevate this dull film. The writers made a terrible decision writing this like a mean girls story and focusing on cheap humor instead of digging into the true concerns and humor of aged people.

Ghost Town (2008) – As always, this quirky comedy starring Ricky Gervais about an anti-social man who can see ghosts makes me laugh.

Hallmark: Bramble House Christmas, Magic in Mistletoe, Making Spirits Bright, Mystery Island, Noel Next Door, Love on the Right Course, The Secrets of Bella Vista, 3 Bed 2 Bath 1 Ghost, Heaven Down Here, Aurora Teagarden -Something New, North to Home, Christmas at the Plaza, Romance with a Twist


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2 Replies to “January 2024 Quickie Reviews”

  1. I quite liked Maybe I Do as something “different,” but oddly it also felt kind of like a play while I watched it. Haven’t seen Miss Scarlet (yet) but I just don’t have that desire to gush about it like I see on social media. It’s fun, but I also am annoyed that people seem to think every problem between Eliza and William is his fault. And you’ve reminded me, I need to re-watch Just Like Heaven again too. 🙂

    1. The more I watch Miss Scarlet, the more frustrated I get. She’s so unapologetically self-centered and manipulative and doesn’t seem to care who she hurts or inconveniences. I really am about to quit the show.

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