June 2024 Quickie Reviews

june 2024 BREAKDOWN
  • 20 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 8 foreign films/series
  • 9 re-watches
  • 2 tv series

Biggest Disappointment: Secret Royal Inspector and Joy

My Dearest – How cool is this poster artwork?

Favorite Discovery: My Dearest

Tv Series

Lost in Austen (2008) – Mediocre in every respect,  I still found myself entertained by this mini-series. Although this is possibly the worst version of Darcy I’ve ever seen portrayed. The actor only had two facial expressions he knew how to use. It was fun to witness some fresh and inventive revelations to familiar characters. I especially enjoyed the take on Wickham’s character.

Rewatch – Agatha Raisin

Foreign Television and Films

Secret Royal Inspector and Joy (2021) – Having just finished Lovely Runner, I wanted to see another one of Kim Hye Yoon dramas. Unfortunately this historical series failed to hold my attention. It wasn’t bad, I just found it boring.  I ended up skipping a few episodes to finish this one off.

Dream High (2011) – Despite some flaws, this older series is one of the better school dramas I’ve seen. It features a group of students at a performing arts school who train their music skills and compete to become professionally noticed. It’s rather fun seeing some now famous faces in their earlier years when their acting skills are less developed. And yet their inconsistency and weakness seems to enhance their character arcs and make them all more believable. There is something very endearing about it all. The show does a good job of weaving in the various musical performances with the plot in a seamless manner. And I really enjoyed watching the journey each of the students take in pursuit of their dream and how they handle the obstacles they encounter along the way.

Falling into You (2022) – Sharing quite a few similarities with Nothing But You, another sports drama I watched earlier this year, this older woman, younger man romance still manages to tell the same story in its’ own way and even managed to hold my interest in all the numerous sports heavy scenes and conversations. I struggled at time with the romance. The age difference didn’t bother me as much as the disparity in authority. She was his coach and even when he wasn’t her student anymore their interactions still often conformed to that hierarchal structure, so that she often came across more like a mother figure than a girlfriend. The writers tried but could have done a better job at depicting their equality of spirit. Their was a point made that she was really just a young girl at heart, but it still didn’t make them feel like they were on the same level.

When I Was the Most Beautiful (2020) – Every now and then I appreciate a romantic tragedy and this one definitely fit the bill.  Featuring a love triangle between two brothers and with all three leads working their way through their individual traumas, it put me through the wringer as a viewer. I’ve rarely seen such raw emotion depicted so well on screen.  The actors inhabited their characters so well that they felt like real people who flounder and hurt others in their attempts to find peace and healing. The misery and emotional angst is offset by the visual beauty and thoughtful music score. Honestly, the cinematography felt like a moving piece of art with a poetic tone. One of the most moving moments I’ve seen onscreen recently is the family proposal in episode four which felt so unique and thoughtful. I eventually tired of all the ways the writers found to torture the heroine, especially the constant threats from her husband’s obsessive ex-girlfriend. But I did appreciate seeing Ye-Ji grow in strength and backbone. Ultimately, it didn’t have the happy ending I generally prefer, but it did provide one that felt true to the story and the characters’ development.

My Dearest (2023) – An epic story which perfectly weaves together historical events with a grandly beautiful romance, this one captivated me from beginning to end.  It gave such a vivid depiction of the injustice, hardship and depravation suffered during and after war time by a captive nation. I was angered not only the horrors suffered at enemy hands, but also by the judgement and cruelty the captives experienced from their own people. Many of these scenes were hard to watch despite the curtailing of graphic violence. The hero (played by one of my favorite Korean actors, Namgoong Min) is like a Korean Moses sacrificing much to bring the captives to freedom and his love for the heroine is selfless and inspiring, even though they don’t share much time together on screen. But their chemistry is fantastic as is their individual character development. Both leads are skilled at portraying their emotions and inner growth without dialogue being necessary. The writing didn’t rely on the typical tropes or story arcs and I liked the unpredictability of it.  As a classic film fan who has seen Gone With the Wind countless times, it was fun to see some similarities in the first half of the series and even more of a happy surprise to see the main characters grow past the confines of the GWtW character traits.  This is definitely a memorable watch, but not one I would want to revisit soon, thanks to how heart wrenching it is.

Arsenal Military Academy (2019) – For a show revolving around a military school this has some really fantastically portrayed women, which I absolutely loved. They are so well written; strong, complex and  smart; from the heroine disguising herself as her own brother, to the sassy, won’t take no for an answer actress, and also the villianess whose petite stature belies her calm, shrewd and ruthless nature.  Most of the leading men are shown as honorable and principled, willing to sacrifice for their country. Xu Kai gives a particularly entertaining performance as the romantic male lead who is flirty, spoiled and entitled, but who also is respectful and protective of his female roommate masquerading as a man. I loved that his protection was only towards her secret.  His high regard for her defense and combat skills meant that he never overstepped in his physical protection, because he believed in her ability. He quickly became one of my new favorite characters in recent memory.
With 48 episodes, this show eventually outwears its’ welcome even though the action level remains consistent. It can’t be labeled boring, but it does start to feel redundant after a while with the same characters engaging in repeated cycles of fighting. Additionally, there are quite a few things that require a level of disbelief, such as the fact that despite multiple trips to the hospital for injuries our heroines subterfuge was never discovered and also the fact that the military students at the academy could out-fight and out-wit their foes who had a higher level of experience. But all in all, it’s a fun series.

Love 020 (2016) – I had already seen the series version of this story, but was curious how the film would compare. I found myself enjoying this movie more, even though it has less time for plot and character development. One thing this version does really well, is blending the characters in the real world with those they play in the gaming world and making the game feel like an actual alternate reality.

On Your Wedding Day (2018) – I wasn’t sure about this one, because I like happy endings in my rom-coms, but I was pleasantly surprised, by how this touched me, even though it had a different kind of happy ending than I wanted. I loved the idea that a relationship can meaningfully impact and change your life even though it may not last forever and that you can be grateful for that without regrets, despite mistakes made.

The Midnight Romance in Hagwon (2024) – I’m not sure what it says about me that I struggle to appreciate more introspective dramas like this one. I find it very hard to connect emotionally with the characters. It was very interesting to see the inner workings of a Korean academy and how the service they provide differs from but also acts in conjunction with the public schools. I’m always amazed and saddened by how cutthroat Korean work culture seems to be. This modern story was given a bit of an old school vibe thanks in part to the music, which I enjoyed.

Post 1980’s

Anyone But You (2023) – I REALLY miss rom-coms, so I generally jump on any new ones that come out. This one gives its own spin on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  I admit that the comedy had me laughing out loud several times, despite being somewhat raunchy and juvenile. But the romance left much to be desired and really made me long for the rom-coms of the 1990’s-2000 era which have now become classics. I’m a fan of the hate to love trope, but the two leads both feel like glaring red flags who will only end up making each other worse. There were aspects of the production which felt more like a made for tv movie in all its’ cheesy glory. Overall, this one was disappointing

Love At First Sight (2023) – Adapted from the popular YA novel The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love this was a pretty cute tale of two stranger who meet on a plane and whose lives keep intersecting over a few days. I appreciated that it was relatively “clean” and found it entertaining if not memorable.

Rewatch – Mr. Malcolm’s List, That Thing You Do,  Sense and Sensibility, Crazy Rich Asians, Once, Babe, Forever Young

Hallmark: The Memory Book, The 27 Hour Day, Savoring Paris, Big Sky River The Bridal Path, A Greek Recipe for Romance, Paris Christmas Waltz, Grace & Glorie, Field Day, Two Scoops of Italy

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