September 2022 BREAKDOWN
- 24 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 7 re-watches
- 3 TV series
- 13 foreign films/series
Biggest Disappointment: When the Camellia Blooms
Favorite Discovery: I Am Not a Robot
The Last Detective (2003) – Peter Davison who played Tristan Farnon in the original All Creatures Great and Small takes on a different role as a kind, competent cop who is often mocked by his co-workers, but whose dedication to his job bring him success in solving crime. There’s nothing cozy or charming about this series, it’s gritty and real, but also light on the gore and violence, thankfully. I really admire this character because he has so much integrity despite always facing ridicule and resistance. It doesn’t change him or deter him one whit. We need more inspirational character examples like this. Just ordinary people who remain true to themselves.
Monk (2002) – I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to this one. Not only does it feature interesting mysteries in each episode, but it’s entertaining and humorous, thanks to it’s characters. Monk and his assistant/nurse Sharona are so great together, although I don’t know how she puts up with his quirks long term. On the other hand, I feel so much compassion for him because he can’t help his OCD and it makes his life so difficult.
Corner Gas Season 3 – I’m just zooming right through each season of this Canadian series. It never fails to make me laugh.
Touch Your Heart (2019) – This one left me with a warm glow, thanks to the beautiful relationship that develops between the two leads. Lee Dong Wook and Yoo In Na display a very natural chemistry as a taciturn attorney and a blacklisted lead actress who have to work together at his law firm. I loved her cheerful irrepressibility and his small growing smiles the more time they spend together. The supporting characters in the law firm as well as her management team add all the comedic touches, with the two bickering CEO cousins making me smile the most. With the exception of one, the legal cases don’t get much attention which is fine by me since the relationship of all the characters remain center stage. I did think the scandal which resulted in the heroine’s fall from grace and past trauma was resolved way too quickly which left no room for a satisfying resolution to that tension. But that is a small complaint for a show that really worked well for me as a whole.
I Am Not A Robot (2017) – I’m not a big fan of robots or science fiction elements, but was surprised by this very delightful series about a man with a human allergy who learns to trust and live as a human again after a smart robot enters his life. Little does he know that that robot is actually a woman who is acting as a stand in for the real robot. This show has so much to say about what it means to be human, to embrace our weaknesses and inconsistencies and to value connection and relationships which is what makes it rather special. On top of that the leads have great appeal and are so cute together. The hero is particular endearing in later episodes after making himself vulnerable to others. He turns into this soft puppy like character who you just want to hug. And once again this K-drama does what K-dramas do well which is creating a pseudo family out of the supporting characters. The Santa Maria research team really grew on me and I loved how they embraced their status as a family. This is definitely worthy watching!
If You Wish Upon Me (2022) – I have to commend Ji Chang Wook for branching out and taking a role like this. He totally transforms himself into a traumatized, hopeless young man whose association with a group of wish granters at a hospice center help him heal. Even knowing it was him, I had a hard time recognizing him the first couple of episodes, he so utterly inhabits his character. Though it starts out a little slow, by episode four I was committed to see this story play out. The show worked best when it focused on celebrating the value of life through each patients’ death scenes. Even though it had me in tears several times, the messages it shared were very beautiful and ones to ponder. It’s unfortunate that the latter half shifted focus to the awful people and relationships in the lead’s past as it really slowed down the momentum that had been built. Still, the last episode was a happy one and completed the redemption arc for Ji Chang Wook’s character.
Suspicious Partner (2017) – With one of the craziest meet-cutes ever, this show had me hooked immediately. Plus, I’m on a mission to work my way through all of Ji Chang Wook’s dramas. This romantic legal comedy leaned hard on the outrageous, not only in the characterizations but the situational as well. It reminded me of the classic screwball comedies I’ve always loved but with an added dash of seriousness thanks to a killer on the loose. I really enjoyed the sparring between the two leads, as well as the supporting characters that made up the law firm around them. I even learned to like two of the supporting female characters who originally appeared to be antagonists, but who eventually became friendly with the female lead. I did feel that their two cheating storylines were resolved way too easily. They both broke trust with the two leads and yet, there was never any serious discussions about what happened and everyone moved on as if none of that mattered. The best thing about his drama though was the villian. He was so well-written and well-portrayed and even sympathetic at times. The romance was up and down some of their conversations and decisions didn’t make much sense at time, but the chemistry was so strong, I just went along with it. I also had to suspend my disbelief over the legal procedures used. I know very little about the Korean legal system, but it was glaringly obvious that so much of the way things were handled was not realistic. Even though this show definitely has some flaws, it was highly entertaining.
When the Camellia Blooms (2019) – I was ready for another cozy small town drama, a la Hometown Cha Cha Cha, but instead I found one with quirky characters who were equal parts endearing and frustrating. The plot about an earnest cop who falls for an outcast single mother really tugged at my heart, but I didn’t like the side story about her being in the cross hairs of a serial killer. I would have preferred the focus stay on the main storyline and all the unique supporting characters. I struggled to understand their motivations and choices which made it difficult to really connect with them. I almost gave up on this one several times, but I just couldn’t. I wanted to shake the heroine so many times as well as some of the people closest to her. One thing I don’t understand about K dramas is why family members can’t just have an honest conversation about their feelings for each other. This doesn’t seem to be a problem with their romantic pairings at all. But so many things were left unsaid. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing that I just don’t understand, but it really drives me crazy. Still, these characters felt very real to me despite my inability to understand them. But I don’t know that I would recommend this when there are so many other great shows.
Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010) -I don’t generally watch gender swap stories, because the confusion and angst feels manufactured and makes me so uncomfortable. However, this one about a girl who disguises herself as a man and attends an all male school was all kinds of fun. I loved her developing friendships with the three male leads, one of which develops into a romance. I had a hard time picking a favorite character, but I leaned towards the flirty, mischievous one played by Song Joong Ki in a hilarious performance and the brooding, but soft hearted rebel played by Yoo Ah In who was also all kinds of sexy.
Strongest Deliveryman (2017) – I think Kim Seon Ho is adorable so I I had to watch this series in which he co-stars. It’s a David and Goliath story about a group of working class deliveryman who take on a large food conglomerate to save their local mom and pop restaurants. The plot itself is an inspiring one, although I struggled to connect with our two main leads. This is the first role I’ve seen Go Kyung Po in and I found him rather bland despite his nice guy portrayal. I liked Chae Soo Bin much better in I Am Not a Robot, although she eventually grew on me. I definitely preferred the second leads, both in their character arcs as former chaebol heirs trying to break free of family expectations and also the development of their relationship. Ko Won Hee ‘s former heiress was so silly and peppy it belied her determination to succeed on her own. I really grew to admire her a lot. Kim Seon Ho just tugged my heart strings with his emotional performance and reminded me that he is a great actor. I kind of wish this show had focused more on these two and their journey of growth and maturity, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.
Sadece Sen (2014) – Before I caved to my obsession for Korean entertainment, I was first enthralled with Turkish films and series. This film is one of my favorites and was a remake of the Korean film Always which itself was inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s silent classic City Lights. This is a grittier version about a former boxer who falls for a blind woman he helps. The performances of the two leads are outstanding, particularly Ibrahim Celikkol as our tortured hero, who does so much exceptional emoting through his eyes and body language. The cinematography is also stunning. It’s just an all around great movie which I like to revisit every so often.
My Secret Romance (2017) – With just 14 episodes around 45 minutes each, I breezed through this series quickly, which is good, because there wasn’t much too it. As a workplace romance, there was very little in the way of a plot and the show rarely took the opportunity to develop much depth or explore the characters’ backgrounds or motivations. It also heavily overused the use of flashbacks. In fact, if most of those flashbacks had been cut, it probably could have finished in 10 episodes. In addition, this show almost overdoses on the romance, which thankfully I didn’t mind much, since I’m a romantic at heart. I also enjoyed the bickering and games between the two leads. If you are looking for something light and easy, this may be a good choice for you, but don’t expect it to be memorable.
A Werewolf Boy (2012) – Though I’m not a fan of werewolf stories, since this film stars two of my favorite Korean actors, Song Joong Ki and Park Bo Young, I couldn’t not watch it. Thankfully, this is a different take on that genre than usual, as it portrays a beautiful but bittersweet relationship between a werewolf and the sick girl who he bonds with. It’s hard to tell if that bond is one of friendship or romance, but that doesn’t detract from the story in any way. Both actors are talented and give great performances, but Song Joong Ki has the harder role, since he only has a handful of lines in the whole movie and must depict his character mainly without the use of words. His use of his eyes, body language and movements is exceptional in conveying the werewolf’s emotions and instincts. My heart strings were pretty much worn out by the end from being tugged on for two hours, but it was well worth it.
Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2016) – This show has one of the best soundtracks/scores I’ve ever heard. I can see why it is rated so highly, almost everything about this is so well done, from the beautiful settings and cinematography, the colors and use of light, the characters and their relationships as well as the story itself. The opening scene alone captured my interest immediately thanks to the Gladiator style vibe. Some of the running time could definitely have been trimmed without sacrificing anything important. I loved three out of the four main characters, Goblin, Sunny and Reaper and their interactions, but was ambivalent about Eun Tak as a character. She just wasn’t nearly as interesting. I found the romance between her and Goblin hard to watch due to the large gap in their ages which felt a bit icky and unrealistic. I loved watching the bromance between Goblin and Reaper develop. I also thought the flashbacks to their past lives especially intriguing and would have enjoyed seeing even more of that, especially in regards to Reaper’s and Sunny’s past since it seemed like there was so much left to explore there. The final episode had me in tears, which is a rare event and proves that this was an emotionally impacting drama, one which raised several great questions for me about the meaning and value of life that has left me much to ponder.
Once Upon a Small Town (2022) -Reminiscent of the BBC’s All Creatures Great and Small, this was the small town vibe I was looking for. It’s so light, airy and refreshing with it’s idyllic country side setting and focus on every day life. The romance between the big city vet who is befriended by the small town cop is so wholesome and cute. With only twelve episodes lasting about thirty minutes each, it’s an easy watch.
My Love, My Bride (2014) – I almost gave up on this romantic drama as the first half hour felt cheesy and not that interesting, but it got better. Shin Min A and Jo Jung Suk star in this exploration of marriage that is told in vignettes. Once the film gets into the meat of portraying how misunderstandings, selfishness and taking your loved one for granted erodes the relationship, it feels a lot more relevant. Having experienced the same in my own failed marriage, it felt so realistic and visceral. Still without the performances of the two leads, I don’t think the film would have been worth my time. But they really sell the fact that despite their failings, they are a couple who really love each other.
Smart Woman (1948) – I may be one of the few who claim to be a fan of either Constance Bennet or Brian Aherne who star in this picture along with a few popular character actors. The two play opposing attorneys who fall in love, but whose relationship is threatened by her past. There’s nothing new or exciting about this one, but the production quality is good and the actors made it worth my time.
Charade (1963) – My mom had not seen delightful romantic comedy, suspense film yet, so of course I made her watch it with me. This one never gets old, thanks to great dialogue, directing and the incomparable pairing of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn who display great rapport. They even make the large age gap between them funny rather than creepy.
Where the Crawdads Sing (2022) – Though this adaptation was made from a very popular successful book, I had never read the novel so I had no idea of the story, no preconceptions or expectations. The mid-century Southern setting was one of my favorite things about this film which thankfully didn’t dwell on the very sad facts of its’ heroine’s life. Instead it focuses on her resilience and love of nature, both of which are inspiring. I also appreciated that there were no famous faces cast which allowed me to really believe in the characters’ story. I confess that the reveal at the end was a complete shock to me and my mom, one which we talked about for several hours. Watching this film was a consistent reminder of how important kindness is and how we shouldn’t judge anyone until we get to know them.
That’s Amor (2022) – I had to look this one up to remember what it was about so that should tell you it wasn’t too memorable. It’s a rather cliche romance made by Netflix about a a broken hearted woman who finds new love when her mother forces her into a relationship with a visiting Spanish chef. I really disliked the pushy mom, though I don’t know that she was meant to be portrayed that way. However her interfering was so invasive. I didn’t care for the female lead at all, but found the male lead charming and sexy. Probably those Latin looks and accent. I appreciate that Netflix is attempting to copy Hallmark’s success with light romance movies, but so far, I haven’t been overly impressed with their offerings.
Love At the Villa (2022) – This is one of the few new Netflix rom-coms that I actually enjoyed. It reminded me a bit of the feature film, Letters to Juliet. The premise of two strangers being forced to share a vacation villa and then declaring war on each other lent for some funny circumstances. I did think they took some of their pranks too far.
Catch and Release (2006) – I don’t know what it is about this movie that I keep coming back to every couple of years. It has an unconventional story about a woman who discovers some surprising and unpleasant truths about her fiance after he dies. I think I like the quirky friends of his that she adopts as family and her ability to accept and forgive his secrets. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Jennifer Garner is the lead, because she just makes the heroine so relatable.
Life As We Know It (2010) -This is another film that isn’t great but I like enough to re-watch. Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel star as two people who can’t stand each other but inherit the guardian ship of the best friends’ child. Watching them merge their lives to raise the child they both love is both funny and heartwarming. I’m not as crazy about the nosiness of all the neighbors who like to ogle Duhamel. But it’s nice to see the character growth they both experience.
In-Lawfully Yours (2016) – Though it definitely has a made for TV feel, I can’t help but really like this one. It has an interesting story about a woman who goes home to help her ex-mother in law and falls for her brother in law who is the town’s preacher. The problem is, she is not a believer. It can be cheesy, but the core relationship between the two leads feels so authentic. The way they challenge and encourage each other leads to healing for them both.
Hallmark: Love’s Portrait, Game Set Love, Love’s Sweet Recipe, Marry Go Round, Cut Color Murder, The Secrets of Bella Vista, Fly Away With Me