Category Archives: Film

Ginie Reviews Film: Antapal

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Film: Antapal, aka The Gangster (อันธพาล)
Director: Kongkiat Khomsiri
Year: 2012
Notable actors:  Krisada Sukosol ClappSomchai KemgladSakarin Suthamsamai
Rating: 3/5

Kongkiat’s vision of 1950s Bangkok is super stylish and initially presents a seductively cool image of what it means to be a gangster or antapal (‘hooligan’) in 1950s Bangkok. Like the two newcomers in the film (Plak and Tong), viewers are initially seduced by the stylish clothes, effortless confidence and action-packed fight scenes – but as in all gangster movies, nothing is what it seems and the film very quickly reveals the grim reality of being an antapal.

The main story follows Jod (played by Krisada Sukosol Clapp), a jaded gangster who, following a stint in prison, wants to get out of gang life but seems to be pulled back in despite his best efforts. Parallel to this story is the story of the aforementioned newcomers, Plak and Tong (Kritsada Suphapphaphrom and Sakrin Suthammasamai), their idolization of Jod and his crew as young teenagers and their own destructive and tragic path into the world of gang warfare as adults.

What I really love about this film is the sense of everything coming and going in cycles, and of themes being repeated and mirrored in the stories of different characters. The film chronicles the changes in gang crime between the 50s and 60s (the movement away from knives as the main weapon to guns) and is interspersed semi-documentary style with modern-day interviews of old-timers recalling what life was like at the hands of these gangs.

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The film really shines when it deals with the internal motivations and lives of its main characters. It’s hard not to feel a sense of pathos at Plak and Tong idolizing gangsters in the same way they idolize James Dean and Elvis Presley. Especially as the further you get into the film, the more you realise that none of these gangsters are actually in control of their own destinies at all. While Plak and Tong admire them for the apparent power and respect they command, behind the scenes you realise that the gangsters are just hired muscle – the real power lies with the mafia and the businesses that control them and that they’re merely pawns in a wider game.

The brutality of the violence in this film has been noted by many reviewers – I have to admit I don’t know how I feel about it and I can’t always tell how serious it is. It’s clearly there to show the brutal reality of a life of violence and how much damage and hurt it leaves in its wake, but at the same time it’s kind of hard to take seriously when your main character kills another by stabbing them in the jugular with a crab claw.

The other thing that bothers me about this film is the lack of women in it. I understand that this film is about a hyper-masculine micro-society, but characters like Jod have mothers and sisters and women in their lives that they care for and they want to protect. Which is why it’s a shame we don’t get to see more of their perspective – outsiders whose entire lives are disrupted on a daily basis by the brutality of this boys club. In Antapal the women serve mostly as background characters – victims of the violence meted out by the main characters, but not actually characters in their own right with any kind of agency and that’s a real shame.

All in all definitely worth a watch – it’s a flawed film but one that deals with its themes in really interesting ways and really makes you feel for the main characters despite the reprehensible things they end up doing.

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Ginie Reviews: Rise of the Guardians

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Film: Rise of the Guardians
Director: Peter Ramsey
Year: 2012
Notable Voice-Actors: Chris Pine, Jude Law, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher
Rating: 4/5

While I have not been a die-hard hater of all things 3D when it comes to animation, I have to admit that up until now I was left mostly indifferent by it. Yes, even with the Pixar stuff – don’t get me wrong, I love Pixar movies for the story-telling and they’re visually fantastic but aesthetically it never quite moved me in the same way that a lot of amazing 2D animation does.

Basically, Rise of the Guardians changed all of that. Yes folks, I’ve been converted to the Church of 3D – and my god is it beautiful. Rise of the Guardians is easily the most visually gorgeous film I saw all year, and an animated film about childhood heroes is exactly the kind of thing you know I was going to love.

The basic premise of the plot is that there are four Guardians of Childhood – Santa, the Sandman, Tooth-fairy and the Easter-bunny and as their title suggests their job is to protect children the world-over. All of this is threatened when the Boogeyman, Pitch, plots to destroy the belief children have in these guardians. Without the children’s belief to sustain them, the Guardians could disappear. The story belongs to Jack Frost, who has been wandering the earth for the last 300 years trying to find a meaning to his immortality.

So far so good. I actually went to see this in theatres by myself like a loser because I’d been dying to see it since I first saw adverts for it and I couldn’t convince anyone I knew to come with me and I was damned if I wasn’t going to see something this visually spectacular on the big screen. You know what my biggest surprise was? A good month after the film first opens on a Tuesday night and the (admittedly just medium-sized theatre) is packed to the brim with adults. And every single one of them freaking loved it and so did I. This movie has lots of genuinely funny moments, so if amazing visuals aren’t enough of an attraction for you than then laughs and the genuinely moving parts of this film will.

I did have some beef with this film though. Especially on the “genuinely moving” parts. Jack Frost is clearly the emotional centre of this film – we see the story through his eyes and it is his existential search for meaning and identity that we care about. The whole save-the-world-from-the-Big-Bad is absolutely secondary to this in term of emotional stakes, and the character we keep coming back to that I couldn’t care less about was Jamie, the human kid and sole remaining believer in the Guardians. Basically Jamie saves the day by refusing to stop believing and ends up encouraging others to believe too.

Jamie. The kid without a freaking care in the world.

Jamie. The kid without a freaking care in the world.

This is all nice and well, but I just. Don’t. Care. The emotional scenes that Jamie’s involved in only have any emotional resonance at all because they are scenes in which Jack Frost comes closer to finding his purpose and comes closer to being believed in. And this is kind of a problem because I think the movie wants me to care about Jamie too, and I just don’t. He’s a generic white suburban American kid – one I actually have kind of a hard time believing actually exists in real life. Not because I don’t think that demographic exists – obviously it does. But I just don’t believe there is such a thing as a “normal” or “perfect” family and this character, for all intents and purposes, basically comes from what we must assume is a perfectly “normal” family where there is never any drama, there are no skeletons in the closet and no personal tragedy has ever befallen them. I do not know a single family like this in real life. I think this particularly bugs me in this instance because the film starts off quite global and epic because the guardians protect children from all over the world and then it’s like…this kid is the kid who is basically going to be the stand-in for children the world over. I don’t know about you, but he doesn’t represent me as a child or anyone else I knew as a child very well at all.

Setting aside the fact that this character doesn’t feel entirely believable or relate-able to me, there’s also the fact that I just don’t know why I should be invested in his belief in the guardians. Aside from the threat to the guardians themselves of course (who are far more fleshed-out than the human children in this film are). Why should I care if this boy stops believing in the Easter Bunny or not? What does he lose if he stops believing? I guess what I’m saying is, this would’ve meant more from a kid who needed to believe in the guardians. A kid who needed their protection and company. A kid who was lonely (for whatever reason) or who has been having a difficult time dealing with, well, life. From what we can see, Jamie has loads of friends, has a loving family who care for him and seems generally pretty chipper and happy with his life. I can imagine that it’s sad to lose faith in something you believed in, but I don’t believe him not believing in the guardians would’ve been that tragic.  Even within the movie’s cast I could’ve found a better candidate. You want to know who? Cupcake.

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Apologies for terrible screenshot. Apparently the Cupcake fandom is much, much smaller than the Jack Frost fandom.

So she’s all smiling in the above picture, but when we’re first introduced to her she’s like the big mean scary brutish kid that everyone else is afraid of. And you know what I can deduce from that? She was probably one damn lonely kid. You know what’s rough? Growing up as a Big Girl. That shit’s pretty painful growing up in a society that has some pretty damn narrow rules for what is acceptable femininity. Add on top of that the fact that everyone thinks she’s mean just because she (quite rightly) doesn’t let people mess with her?  And you have a kid who pretty desperately needs to not feel alone and probably needs to believe in the guardians some what more than Jamie does.

So yeah…that was my big beef with this film. Jack Frost’s story was genuinely moving and genuinely had me caring, but Jamie’s? Not so much. It wasn’t Jamie’s story, so he was never going to have the emotional narrative that Jack Frost has, but seriously. I should still care.

Otherwise my love for North, his Yetis, Sandy, Pitch and Baby Tooth is basically endless. They are all adorbs and fantastic and I love them. I found it harder to warm up to the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Let’s not mention the fact that in the original books Tooth was meant to be South East Asian and in this film she is…

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…decidedly not. About the only thing left from Tooth’s South East Asian heritage is (very possibly) her Tooth Palace, the design of which I think looks vaguely South East Asian inspired. And by vaguely I mean very vaguely.

South East Asian palace? Very possibly. Probably. I think.

South East Asian palace? Very possibly. Probably. I think.

So is it a good film? Definitely yes. Do I love it? Yes! To bits, which is why it’s getting a 4 star rating even though I can totally see why someone else may watch this and be left decidedly less impressed. For what it’s worth, it is a visually stunning feel-good movie with some surprising moments of emotional depth and poignancy.  If you are not at least impressed by Sandy’s dream sand then I do not know what’s wrong with you.

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Ginie Reviews Film: Batman – Under the Red Hood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film: Batman: Under the Red Hood
Director: Brand Vietti
Year: 2010
Notable Voice-Actors: Jensen Ackles, John DiMaggio, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Isaacs
Rating:4/5

So this film has actually been around for two years, but I’ve recently just discovered it and it’s pretty awesome. Seems like DC Animation has been taking a turn for the more mature and making quite a few animated films actually geared towards an adult audience, and this is very prominently displayed in the opening scenes of “Under the Red Hood”.

It’s like the film is shouting “Hey – hey you! If you’ve put this on for your kids you should turn it off now. Like, right now. This isn’t a kid’s film. And to prove it we’re going to have the Joker beat the crap out of Robin with a crowbar in the opening five minutes of the film. Got it? This is not a kid’s film!” but honestly? I actually really enjoyed this film and while there is a lot of violence it never feels unjustified or excessive. We are dealing with the Red Hood after all, one of DC Universe’s most messed-up Robins (maybe after Damian Wayne) and violence is absolutely in his modus operandi.

I think perhaps what is most interesting about this film is that in a way, it addresses the age-old concern of whether or not superheroes actually help, or whether they’re the root cause of all the super-villains in town. It also forces Batman to confront the extent of his commitment to his cause and how many people he’s endangered and put at risk because of it. Because if you really think about it? Bruce Wayne has to be one of the worst guardians/foster parents ever. Not only does he risk the life of one orphan kid by training him into becoming his side-kick super-child-soldier, he risks the lives of like, six. Seriously, the list just doesn’t end, and although it’s frustrating that the DC editorial team seems to feel the need to add more and more to Bruce’s already gigantic man-pain, I do think that Jason’s story (not his death, so much as his resurrection and coming back to be a blight on Bruce’s city) does shed not only some vulnerability to Batman, but also some fallibility.

Source: Baturday Tumblr

Holy smokes Batman! Whatever happened to our family-friendly Boy wonder?

The plot and the conflict set up in this film is really well-done, but then I’ve always been more partial to character-driven stories and this one does get very personal for Bruce. To summarise: five years after Robin (Jason Todd) dies by the Joker’s hand there is a masked vigilante known as the Red Hood who has taken control over all of Gotham’s drug trade, happily beheading any drug lords that stand in his path or don’t fit his code of conduct. Batman keeps trying to take him down, but the Red Hood knows his every move before he can even make them (quel surprise…) and in desperation, the last remaining Drug pin has made a deal to break the Joker out of Arkham…if the Joker will take out the Red Hood. But of course, the Joker is a wild card and who knows what will happen when you throw him into the mix?

Who is the Red Hood? Can Batman and Nightwing outmanoeuvre him? And finally, who is actually in the right? Red Hood, or Batman?  These are just some of the questions that the movie forces us to ask and I must say watching the movie to get the answers is an entirely enjoyable experience (although the first one is pretty damn obvious). Oh and there’s Ra’s al Ghul, the League of shadows and the Lazarus Pit thrown in there too for good measure.

I also wanted to make a note about John DiMaggio’s performance as the Joker – I think like for most kids of the 90’s, Mark Hamil is the definitive Joker, but I have to say I really enjoyed John DiMaggio’s performance too. He’s a very different Joker, much less polished and quite a bit less theatrical (despite trademark make-up and purple suit). He also feels a lot rougher and a lot more physically brutal and very unpredictable. In short, he’s pretty amazing and it’s a joy to watch him on the screen. (And also possibly my new favourite Joker).

As for the animation, it is just wonderful. And if you love watching the Bat-family interact, then this movie is a pure gem. Basically go watch it now.

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Ginie Reviews Films: The Dark Knight Rises

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film: The Dark Knight Rises
Director:
Christopher Nolan
Year:
2012
Notable Actors:
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman
Rating:
4/5

~*Spoilers Ahead*~

I know, I know. Really Ginie? A Dark Knight Rises review almost two months after its release? Why even bother? Well, in my defense I’ve spent the last two months working and studying in different cities, and what with the moving around and all the administration that entails I haven’t had much time to keep up to date with my reviewing. Secondly in honour of a.) the last film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy b.) the Dark Knight Returns film DC have announed for this year and c.) my current  Batman obsession, I am declaring this month unofficial Bat-month where I’ll be reviewing various Bat-related things. Sounds good? Now on with the review!

So like pretty much everyone who went to see the film in theatres I was completely blown away – the pacing of the film, the tension, the way it neatly ties back to Batman Begins and completes the trilogy while leaving us wanting more – it was excellent. It was also great to see Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows return as the trilogy’s ultimate antagonist, and the introduction of Talia al Ghul is a nice touch (and maybe sets up the possibility of a Damien Wayne in any future Nightwing movies? Who knows…also – called it! Called it the moment she started going on about not always having been privileged!) Basically there was plenty in it for Bat-nerds to get excited over, but also worked as a standalone for viewers who aren’t familiar with the DC universe at all.

And bizarre though this may sound, it was great to see Batman age (I know, he’s only what, like in his thirties at this point?) but being the Batman has taken an emotional and physical toll on him and I guess that’s one of the great things about Nolan’s universe  – the fact that it takes little realistic things like ageing and messed-up knee caps into consideration. Although no one will ever top my favourite grumpy old curmudgeon Batman, Christian Bale obviously does a great job. It’s even weirder watching Batman Begins again because he looks and acts so young in that film and it’s interesting to see how being the Batman ages Bruce Wayne. I also liked Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, and I think it was a smart move on Nolan’s part to have this Selina Kyle be fully into her identity as Catwoman already to avoid any comparisons with say, Michelle Pffeifer’s transformation into Catwoman in the Tim Burton films. She’s quite a different character to Rachel Dawes and the contrast works quite well – a more cynical ally for a more cynical Batman.

Non-cat-ear cat-ears! Super cute.

Bane was an awesome villain, a very interesting contrast to Heath Ledger’s Joker in the previous film. In some ways I felt like their tactics were very similar (creating chaos and instilling fear) but the contrast in their motivations and the execution of their plans makes Bane a very interesting new villain. I did find it weird that no one ever talked about the Joker though. Especially considering how Harvey Dent was a key reference throughout this film it just seemed odd that Gotham was in chaos once again and no one ever mentioned that other time when Gotham was in chaos. But I guess all things considered, I can probably understand why they didn’t want to bring attention to the Joker character at all.

Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure how I felt about the Talia reveal at the end. I get that it was meant to be a surprise and all (for those of us who didn’t catch on that she was Talia in like, the first five minutes) but it just felt like I wish I’d known more about her motivations. We know she’s carrying out this work for the League of Shadows and we know she’s avenging her father, but I feel like there was more of a story there that should have been told.

So all in all an amazing movie and a great end to a fantastic trilogy that brings the DC universe into a more relate-able real-life setting. But then this monstrosity showed up:

So not that I’m not a fan of  ‘the Bat’, but I think it was at this point that my suspension of disbelief failed me and I was like “seriously, how does Gotham NOT know that Batman is Bruce Wayne? How many other multi-billionaires are there who are the head of a company with a weapons division in Gotham?!”

(No seriously though. How does no one figure it out? Or at least figure out that Wayne Enterprises is totally involved?)

And maybe this is the problem with trying to make comic characters work in a realistic world. The idea is fundamentally an exaggeration and only really works in an exaggerated universe…the universe of comic books. The moment you try to apply it to real life everything falls apart a bit. And once I noticed how ridiculous the bat-helicopter was I couldn’t stop noticing all the other things that didn’t add up. Like the fact that a nuclear explosion (even out at sea) would still result in the entire population of Gotham risking cancer from exposure to radiation. Or how Bruce Wayne got back into a locked-down Gotham. You know. Plot-holes like that.

Still, if you can ignore the plot-holes, this is an incredible enjoyable film with a fantastic cameo from Cillian Murphy as Dr. Crane with easily one of the best lines in the movie:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I recommend seeing The Dark Knight Rises? Of course! It really is a great ending to the Nolan trilogy and it’s genuinely kind of sad (but probably for the best) that this will be the last film in this series.

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Ginie’s Top Ten: (Mostly) Nostalgic Animated Crushes

I noticed that for something I really love, I actually haven’t talked much at all about animation on this website. And I’ve decided that I’m going to address that! With – what else? A Top Ten list of Hotted Animated Guys, partially inspired by Nostalgia Chick’s Top Ten “Hottest” Animated Guys list. A point Lindsay raises in her list is that while Top Ten Hottest Animated Women lists tend to be quite unanimous, Top Ten Hottest Animated Guys tend to have a lot more variation in  them and I guess are much more subjective to whom is drawing up the list. That being said she still discovered a trend: apparently we like them dark, and we like them tortured. Also we freaking love woobies (I’m totally with you there Nella). In drawing up this list I’ve come to realise that basically…yeah. Spot on. Apparently I, like most fangirls, just want to save you! And give you a hug or something. So anyway, here’s my personal and absolutely subjective Top Ten, with some nostalgic crushes and some more recent ones.

  1. Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle)
    So I’m developing a theory that Howl represents a certain character archetype that I think is really appealing to young girls – the fantasy character who crashes into your hum-drum life, grabs you by the hand and whisks you off to somewhere exciting and dangerous to have adventures together.  I’d argue that that’s definitely one of the appeals of characters like Doctor Who for instance (especially in the episode The Eleventh Hour), and I find it hard to believe that TV Tropes doesn’t seem to have come up with a name for this trope yet. (Dear TV Tropes: get on it!) Otherwise what is there to say? Animated!Howl is basically fangirl catnip: he’s handsome, he’s charming, he does magic, he’s noble of spirit – but he’s also tortured with (literal) personal demons and needs a hug! I actually much prefer his bookverse counterpart, but that doesn’t mean that teenage me wasn’t totally in love with Hayao Miyazaki’s version of Howl, especially as the English dub was voiced by Christian Bale.
  2.  Li Shang (Mulan)

    What can I say? Let’s get down to business! To deafeat – the huns! Li Shang is well, hot. But despite that he’s also got this kind of awkward thing going on which makes him quite relateable and likeable and I imagine that for most  fans of this character it’s the awkward likeability that puts him above all other similarly hot-ly drawn Disney princes(?) Also! Bonus point for being the kind of animated guy who acknowledges he was wrong and makes up for it by following Mulan’s lead into battle. And having the most awesome song in the movie while not being a Disney villain.
  3. Dimitri (Anastasia)
    Ahh, Anastasia! What a way to completely re-write history, movie! But of course, Anastasia is hardly the only serious offender in that category (*cough*, Pocahontas, *cough*). Anyway, I saw this movie long before I knew anything about 20th Century Russian history (which is why, dear animators, making animated films based on “historical facts” and getting them completely wrong is absolutely awful! CHILDREN DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER, and you’ve deliberately misinformed them). But back to what I was saying – I saw this movie when it first came out and obviously had this huge nostalgic crush on Dimitri. If Howl represents the fantasy-character-who’ll-take-you-on-adventures archetype, I’d argue that Dimitri (and Aladdin further down this list) represent the “real-world” counterpart to that archetype. As a side-note: re-watching this film as an adult is hilarious because I actually get references to 20s/30s Parisian things like the Josephine Baker cameo.
  4. Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
    Oh Zuko. Was there ever an animated woobie that needed just needed a hug more than you? Seriously though, I do love Zuko as a character and of all the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, he is the one with one of the most interesting and fully-developed character-arcs in the entire series. From conflicted antagonist and general bratty shit-head to ultimately becoming one of the series’ heroes, Zuko is easily a fan-favourite and it’s not hard to see why we all love him. I think one of things I love most about A:TLA though, is the amount of self-aware humour that is used, and isn’t spared when it comes to Zuko. Sure, Zuko’s story is pretty tragic but that doesn’t stop characters in-universe making fun of his obsession with restoring his honour. (Sidenote: Aang is disqualified  on account of age, basically.)
  5.  Link (The Legend of Zelda)
     Oh man, this is a long-standing nostalgic crush for me. I know this is also kind of cheating as Link isn’t a character from an animated movie or show (shut up shut up, that animated show doesn’t count!), but he is an animated character so as far as I’m concerned his position on this list is totally legit. My first introduction to Link was my step-cousin play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time  back in 1998, and I just loved Link. He’s another archetypical character, the Hero who must go on his Hero’s Journey and I guess the great thing about Link is that you’re adventuring right alongside him on his Hero’s Journey. He is intentionally silent in all of the games as he’s meant to be your avatar into the Zelda-universe, but I actually think the animation (especially in later games like Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword) have been great for actually expressing giving him a personality and expressing emotions.
  6. Count of Monte Cristo (Gankutsuou)
    This is a much more recent one – anyone who knows my reading habits knows I love me some French 19th Century writers, especially Alexandre Dumas’ adventure stories and having finished The Three Musketeers books as a teenager I’m now working my way through The Count of Monte Cristo which I think I’ve already decided I like better than The Three Musketeers. This anime is actually a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the novel, but with a few key differences that make it its own story. First of all it’s set far into the future (where apparently there’s been a restoration of the monarchy in France?) and secondly Edmond Dantes’ drive for revenge is fuelled by a pact he made with a demon while incarcerated in the Chateau D’If. There are other differences of course in terms of the different characters and their relationships and motivations, but those two are the most notable differences with regards to the plot. The anime is quite dark, and the Counts’ thirst for revenge is shown to be a all-consuming destructive force that almost completely engulfs the good man that the Count used to be – Edmond Dantes.
  7. Aladdin (Aladdin)
    I think Aladdin’s position as on this list was solidified by an encounter I had several years ago with a IRL hot guy who actually looked like Aladdin. Despite all the race-fail there is in this movie, I do really enjoy it and I think the appeal of Aladdin is that he’s clearly a flawed character but one who learns from his mistakes and most importantly wants to take you on fun adventures. (We’ll firmly ignore the part where his character design was apparently based on Tom Cruise. Why..?)
  8. …Entire Prince of Egypt Cast
    Whether it’s Ramses or Moses or even Joseph from the less-good King of Dreams movie, I’ve got to hand it to the animators of The Prince of Egypt: all their animated characters are ridiculously good-looking. (I’ll momentarily ignore the fact that I just called a bunch of Biblical characters hot). Re-watching The Prince of Egypt makes me kinda sad that Dreamworks doesn’t do this kind of animation any more, because this film was amazingly epic and the music was gorgeous and the animation was beautiful.
  9. Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)
    Dr. Facilier is easily one of the most awesome characters in The Princess and the Frog, has one of the best Disney villain songs ever and possesses just an amazing amount of style and charisma. It also helps Keith David’s voice acting is nothing short of amazing and spine-shiveringly cool. There is a lot of race-fail in this film too when it comes to the representation of Vodou, and I take issue with how easily Dr. Facilier is defeated but regardless of these issues I can’t help but love this character to bits.
  10. Scar (The Lion King)
    What? I dare you not to love Jeremy Irons.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Prince Adam/The Beast (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Judge Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
  • Hadji and Johnny Quest (The Real Adventures  of Johnny Quest)
  • Haku (Spirited Away)
  • Gambit (X-Men)
  • Bolin (The Legend of Korra)

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Ginie Reviews Films: First Love (Thai Film)

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Film: First Love (สิ่งเล็กเล็ก ที่เรียกว่า..รัก aka. A Little Thing Called Love)
Director: Puttipong Pormsaka Na-Sakonnakorn and Wasin Pokpong
Year: 2010
Notable Actors: Mario Maurer, Pimchanok Luevisadpaibul
Rating: 3.5/5

~*Spoilers ahead*~

You know what? A part of me really really loves this movie. It’s funny, it’s sweet and it’s just so very Thai it reminds me of home. But it’s at about the half-way mark that things in this movie start to get a little bit awry and as much as I still love, let’s be honest: there are some pretty problematic things with this movie, not least of which is how the main character has a dramatic change in skin tone as part of her transformation:

To which I’m going to have to defer to Tumblr experts Damn, Lay Off the Bleach. The tale of the “ugly duckling” who changes into a beautiful swan and wins the prince is hardly a new one (hello there, She’s All That!); the fact that this transformation involves highly discernible skin-whitening is well, nothing short of awful. (Seriously, the first time I saw this film I thought they’d changed actress half-way through, she looks like two completely different people). More on this later.

First Love is a Thai teen romantic comedy about a girl called Nam and her crush on senior boy Shone.  The film follows her and her three loyal friend through all sorts of funny hijinks as she tries to get P’Shone to notice her while also becoming top of her class so that she might get to go to the States where her dad (who she hasn’t seen in five years) is currently working.

So far so typical right? But genuinely – but I really really loved the first half of this film. Maybe it’s because of the hilarious comedy. Maybe it’s because for at least the first half of the film a part of me genuinely sympathised with Nam and found her and her friends really sweet. Maybe it’s because for the first half of the film, Nam and her friends seemed playfully defiant of the shitty narrow beauty standards they were expected to live up to – even while trying to live up to them. (Hello “makeover” scene! That yellow stuff? Kamin? Yeah, I’ve had that used on my skin before.)

But mainly I think I loved it for the humour, especially Khun Khru Inn:

(Seriously though, I LOVE HER.)

But yeah. There was a line that stuck out to me in particular – a line that is uttered by Nam’s best friend Cheer. While they are waiting to sign up for Khru Orn’s traditional Thai dance show Nam remarks that it’s a waste of time – Khru Orn only ever chooses the most beautiful girls to perform in her show; “white skin, Chinese-looking and all those other qualities!” Her friend Cheer in response says “Hey! We still have to try – the four of us, we might not have white-skin and we might not have Chinese-looking faces. We’re dark skinned but we’re still beautiful, we can be the pioneer generation!” and I just thought that was so awesome. Of course I think the joke here is that none of these girls are remotely what would be considered beautiful by traditional Thai standards, but you know what? Screw you. Cheer is freaking fierce and I love her. And that is my massive massive problem with this movie. It takes this awkward heroine and her shameless but absolutely fierce friends and by the end of the movie manages to remove just about everything that made any of them even remotely engaging to watch.

Over the course of three years Nam changes from “ugly” duckling to beautiful swan (while also miraculously changing to a much lighter skin colour – hurrah for toxic skin-whintening products!) and in the process manages to somehow loose all her personality. While before her pursuit of P’Shone was funny and cute, towards the latter half of the film Nam takes an increasingly passive role in her pursuit of Shone and just allows other people’s actions (Shone’s friend asking her out, Shone going out with another girl) to guide her life. She moons over Shone while allowing life to blow her in every which direction without once taking charge. And that makes her considerably less interesting than the younger girl who at least planned ways in which she could bump into him or speak to him. Not to mention at the beginning of the film there’s this running joke of how girls pretend to sprain their ankles to get the attention of boys like P’Shone – it’s done so often I can only assume it must be satirical? But by the end of the film our heroine does just that (although I think we’re meant to take it that she  actually sprains her ankle rather than pretending – but still). Whereas in the beginning it was an action her and her friends laughed at (“Oh-ho, so drama!”) by the end she is doing exactly the same thing.

For these reasons the second half of the movie is pretty weak.

The ending is by far the worse though. Nine years later Nam is back in Thailand from the USA (where she met her father, did her studies and became an apparently very successful fashion designer). It is on a talkshow that she is reunited with Shone who has been waiting all this time for her to return – revealing that he too, had always been in love with her since the very beginning.

A few thoughts on this:

– She became a fashion designer?? Why? How? There is absolutely NO indication earlier on in the film that she had any kind of artistic talent or inclination outside of performing in Snow White. Shone’s love of photography and football are well-developed throughout the movie, so it is unsurprising that he grows up to become a footballer (and then after he leaves football a photographer) but seriously – there is not indication whatsoever that Nam likes fashion or loves to draw. None.
– In nine years they both loved each other but neither thought to get in touch or call or e-mail or something?? I mean I know she’s in America and all but seriously – skype is free!

But worse of all is the moral that I think we’re supposed to take from the film. Nam tells the talk-show host that all the things she’d done in her life – making herself more beautiful (more white!), studying harder, taking part in extra-curricular activities – all these things she did to “better” herself she did out of love for Shone. Now here’s the thing: I can understand the message that love ennobles us, that it makes us want to be better than who we are. I totally get that and I can even get behind that (though I usually think “bettering” oneself in terms of – oh I don’t know, becoming a more honest, caring and considerate person). But really? Bettering oneself shouldn’t have to involve skin bleach. This is especially insidious considering the massive skin-whitening industry in Thailand that consistently tells Thai women (most of whom aren’t white-skinned) that they look ugly because their skin isn’t fair enough.  Also: this was her only life’s motivation? Whatever happened to studying hard so that she could meet her dad? (Apparently that motivation is completely forgotten by this movie who decides to ascribe Nam’s academic achievements to love too).

To conclude, I do love this movie (I know, you wouldn’t have guessed it from the way I speak of it) but genuinely I do. It’s a funny and sweet movie that never fails to make me laugh, but I can’t help but feel that half-way through the director decided to make an entirely different movie, and I have to say I like the second movie considerably less. The second-half is not only boring but pretty much serves to completely undermine the confidence the four girls had in the beginning of the movie with a really awful message. It’s definitely still worth a watch for the laughs, check out the trailer and go see it for yourself (Although YMMV on the skin-whitening thing).

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Ginie Reviews Films: The Hunger Games

Film: The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Year: 2012
Notable Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Rating: 3.5/5

Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favour.

I admittedly don’t have much to say about this movie that hasn’t been expressed in Nostalgia Chick’s vlog.

Other thoughts:

  •  I felt like there was a lot of relevant details that may have left some people at a loss if they weren’t familiar with the books. The fact that the Mockingjay is a symbol of subversion (and therefore not just a pretty pin that her little sister gave her to keep her safe),  or the significance of the three-finger District 12 salute, that sort of thing.
  • Or the fact that poor families can put their children’s names in for the Reaping more times in exchange for food. That seemed like a significant piece of social commentary that wasn’t really made clear.
  • Also I felt like it was much harder to feel the horror of it all because in the books you get to know most of the tributes by name, and you spend more time getting to know them. When a tribute dies, regardless of whether they were “good” or “bad”, it made an impact in the books. Few of the deaths made an impact in the film because we barely spent time knowing them as people. I guess this is a screen-time restraint, which can’t really be helped.
  • Speaking of deaths, I do wish they’d spent a bit more screen-time building up Rue and Katniss’s rapport/relationship. It just felt a little too rushed. I cried anyway, but I cried because of the character I knew in the book. If no one else, I wish the film had just given the audience a bit more time to get to know Rue and really feel the impact of the senselessness of her death.
  • Films are a different medium to books – and you can’t really get the same internal perspective in a film that you can with a book.  Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress, but I felt that the played-up romance with Peeta could easily have been mistaken for a real romance in the film, whereas in the book it’s a lot more clear that Katniss’s feelings and motivations are more ambiguous. Yes, Katniss cares for Peeta – but she doesn’t yet love him romantically and her romantic interactions are forced through because of her need to survive the Hunger Games. The only indication we get of this in the film is Haymitch’s note: “You call that a kiss?” which well, doesn’t say much about Katniss’s actual feelings about the whole thing or Peeta’s for that matter. I think those later scenes in the film lack the tension that I feel exists in the book as a result.
  • And yeah – the editting is a bit weird. Also, the weird censorship of the actual goriness of what is going on. You’ve got kids beating each other to death – but there’s no blood? I see. I know they did it to keep the PG-13 rating, and I’m happy that the younger Hunger Games fans will get to see it but I do think any film/book that attempts to deal with these kinds of issues does a disservice to its subject-matter when it glosses over the realities of just how horrific and senseless violence is.
  • That said, I do like the way certain things were articulated in the film that weren’t necessarily done in the books. The last quote by Cato, a career tribute, particularly: “Go on. Shoot. Then we both go down and you win. Go on! I’m dead anyway – I always was, right? Tell that to them! How’s that, is that what they want? HUH? I could still do this. I could still do this. One. More. Kill. It’s the only thing I know how to do and we pride it in my district. Not that it matters… “

But yes. Other than that – Jennifer Lawrence is stunning and the acting in this was really well-done, from everyone. Definitely worth seeing if you enjoyed the books – and if you haven’t read the books it’s still worth seeing though I’d always recommend to read the books first. My brother really enjoyed it despite having never read any of The Hunger Games, and he now wants to borrow my books. So yes. Happy Hunger Games!

^^EDIT^^
Ooh actually, this sums up most of my feels. Although I did actually quite like Peeta’s performance:

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