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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…

isla

…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 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 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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Ginie Compares: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete

  

Films: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete
Directors: Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise and Jean Cocteau
Years: 1991 and 1946

So, as you may or may not have picked out from this blog, I’m something of a fan of fairy-tales. As someone who is quite visually driven, I’m a fan of the imagery they evoke – and as someone who likes understanding people, I’m a fan of how the way in which a fairytale is told (what is included, what gets left out) often speaks volumes about the society that produced it.

But that’s not exactly what I wanted to talk about today. Mainly I just wanted to get around to comparing two versions of one of my favourite fairy-tales of all time: Beauty and the Beast.

While the Disney version seems to have taken a lot of inspiration from the Cocteau version (including the design of the beast, the enchanted household items and Avenant, a Gaston-like character); the two movies are very different (as you would expect from the America’s upholder of family values and a French surrealist), and they were clearly made for very different audiences.

Visually, both movies are absolutely stunning. I remember the first time I watched the Disney version I was only a wee-thing but I was so completely and utterly drawn into the world and frequently felt genuine fear – of the beast, of his castle, of the woods – there is so much in this movie that is terrifying for very young kids (as in, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t older than five the first time I saw this). The music and the visuals and the atmosphere in this film are just incredible, and I am not surprised that people still consider this one of Disney’s best animated feature length films.

(Seriously though, this scene. Like holy crap how terrifying is the beast when he first steps into the light?)

Cocteau’s world is just as entrancing, but in an entirely different way. Like the Disney, Cocteau’s world is frightening – but not in an overtly obvious way. There’s just something incredibly unsettling about the beast’s castle (the human arm chandeliers for one) and I think in a way, this difference perfectly demonstrates who the different audiences are. While Disney’s version was terrifying for children (and is still visually dark and impressive at times, though you’ll be glad to know I no longer quake at the site of the best), Cocteau’s version was made for adults. Even in the 40’s (especially after the war, where no horror could amount to what people probably saw in real life) adults are much harder to scare, and I think it’s the familiar made unfamiliar that is so unsettling in this movie, especially for adults.

Also, it reminds me a bit of Joel Peter Witkin’s photography. There’s a kind of visual deception where everything looks as it should be until you notice the disembodied arm. And the arm isn’t even doing anything. It’s just there. But that’s what’s so unsettling about it.

Where Disney’s film was a movie aimed primarily at children to teach them a moral about judging surfaces rather than inner qualities; Cocteau was a movie that asked adults to be children again, to suspend their disbelief and allow themselves to be transported into this world that he has created. He states so quite literally in the very opening of the film:

Children believe what we tell them. They have complete faith in us. They believe that a rose plucked from a garden can plunge a family into conflict. They believe that the hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim, and that this will cause him shame when a young maiden takes up residence in his home. They believe a thousand other simple things.
I ask of you a little of this childlike sympathy and, to bring us luck, let me speak four truly magic words, childhood’s “Open Sesame”:
Once upon a time…

Does it succeed? Partly yes, and partly no. But I think this is perhaps true of all films.

While the atmosphere of the film is rich and all-enveloping, the visuals stunning and the music haunting – I had some issues with the characters, namely the Beast and Belle, and to be fair, a lot of it isn’t strictly speaking Cocteau’s fault.

Take the Beast. Admittedly, I believe my issue with Cocteau’s Beast is partly derived from the fact the he is very based on the Beast in the traditional fairytale and also partly derived from the fact that I am a modern viewer and this Beast was not meant to appeal to someone like me. While the Beast is indeed a tragic figure who clearly suffers greatly and who is clearly desperately lonely, I found it hard to like him and I found it hard to believe that Belle could ever love him. As in all versions of this tale, Belle is repulsed and horrified by his appearance and only later discovers his gentle side. Every night the Beast asks her if she will marry him, and every night she says no – because despite the fact that she has grown to like him as a friend, she finds his looks too horrifying to contemplate marrying.

This dynamic makes me super uncomfortable because it makes the basis of their relationship essentially one of pity, which he later uses to manipulate Belle into coming back. When she asks to leave to see her father, he says he will allow her to do so on the condition that she must return to him – otherwise he’ll die. He essentially emotionally blackmails her to return (which isn’t what the film intended, but is how  feel when I see Belle and the Beast interact). It means that while I can understand Belle feeling compassionate for the Beast and even feeling fond of him, I cannot understand her falling in love with him – especially when throughout the movie and throughout their interactions there is no indication that she has developed feelings for him beyond a pitiful sense of affection. Moreover when the Beast transforms back into his handsome self his entire attitude and personality changes – from the meek, self-deprecating Beast he turns into a confident-bordering-on-arrogant prince who looks just like Avenant, the attractive suitor Belle originally rejected. Aside from the sudden demeanour change, the fact that Belle openly admires how he looks like Avenant and basically says that this pleases her (Yey! An Avenant who isn’t a dick! I guess…?) makes it hard for me to believe in her love for him and believe in their relationship.

The relationship between Disney’s Beast and Belle on the other hand, I can understand a bit better (but then, this movie was made to appeal to someone of my generation). I tend to feel accusations of Stockholm Syndrome are unfair as Belle doesn’t even remotely like him until long after he’s stopped being a violent douchebag. I also feel it doesn’t play into the “bad boy” trope because in most of those tropes the girls can’t help but be drawn to someone they know is wrong for them – which isn’t the case with Belle. She argues with the Beast and tells him she ran away because he’s a violent asshole and he needs to calm down otherwise she won’t stay. That’s not falling for a “bad boy”, that’s quite rightly standing up for yourself and drawing some boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. (It does however play into another trope: the love of a virtuous woman redeeming a terrible man). But she doesn’t start to love him until after they’ve formed a friendship and more importantly until after he’s realised that if you love someone you can’t force them to stay with you against their will and that you have to let them make their own choices, even if that choice means leaving you. Which she does. Not once does he tell her that she is his last chance at becoming human again and he does not even ask her to come back – he just lets her go free. Simple as that.

Not that the Disney version doesn’t have it’s issues (Oh god comic relief characters why, just why), but overall I am much fonder of the Disney version than I am of Cocteau’s. I know, I know – Ginie you’re such a philistine! Preferring Disney over Cocteau? Pssh! What can I say? Obviously my fondness for Disney is also largely nostalgia-fuelled, and as I’ve stated, the movie Cocteau made wasn’t made for post-WWII adults, not for a child of the 90’s. So if liking the Disney version more makes me a philistine, than I guess so be it. In the meanwhile, share your thoughts in the comments!

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Ginie Reviews Film: The Adventures of Tintin – The Secret of the Unicorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 2011
Notable Actors: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Daniel Craig
Rating: 4/5

I’m not going to lie – I was ready to hate this film. Like many Francophone kids, I grew up with the Tintin comic books and animated series and have a pretty fond memory of them (questionable racial dynamics aside) and when I heard there was going to be a feature length film I was unbelievably excited. Then I heard it would be animated using motion-capture technology and my heart plummeted. Oh god no, I thought – not another Polar Express.

The trailer and the teaser images released by the studios over the last six months did nothing to assuage my fears. As I had imagined, the characters seemed to look mostly creepy with their life-like human skin and eyes but cartoonish proportions – and all the reviews I’d read once the movie was released only seemed to confirm my prejudices. Still, it was a Tintin movie and I was going to see it regardless of how awful it might be, simple as that.

Now that I have actually seen it I can honestly say I think all the outraged reviews and accusations of corpse-like animation is mostly over-exaggerated. Genuinely, this was a really fun film with lots of really inventive action sequences and stunning animation that only very occasionally veered into uncanny-valley territory, mainly when the camera focussed a little too closely on the main characters’ eyes – which thankfully, it actually doesn’t do that often.

For fans who grew up with these stories there is plenty to be delighted by: the producers clearly did their research and there are plenty of fun references to other famous Tintin adventures, such as the lovely little cameo by Bianca Castafiore (also got me ridiculously exited). The movie is also visually stunning, from the awesome 2D animated opening sequence to the fight scenes out at sea and does actually make a good use of 3D (something I’m usually very sceptical about) with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and the sense of adventure that the original animated series portrayed. Lest anyone think my enthusiasm is purely nostalgia-based, I’d also like to say my boyfriend who was equally prepared to be unimpressed by the film and had never grown up with Tintin at all still came out of the theatres agreeing that it was great fun and much better than he had imagined it would be.

I also enjoyed the way you got a feel for Tintin and Captain Haddock as characters, especially Tintin who I feel is usually very 2-D and bland; whereas here he seems to be much more fleshed out and much more like a real person. My boyfriend was surprised at how dark some of it was, especially Capt. Haddock’s battle with alcoholism which is played for laughs in the film, but it does also address how much Capt. Haddock’s addiction has negatively affected his life and his relationship with others, including his budding friendship with Tintin who initially finds Haddock impossible to trust.

My only criticisms then would be the occasionally uncanny valley-ish effects of the animation and the very odd gender ratio (which to be fair, was a problem that was also true of the original series). I think there must’ve been literally four women present in the entire film, only one of which had a ‘speaking’ part (sort-of. I don’t think Bianca actually spoke, just sang). It is very much a boy’s own adventure story, which means while it’s fun it definitely seems to exist in a weird world where women just don’t exist, not even as 2-D love interests. As for the racial dynamics of the film, similarly people of colour are purely background characters, but this is a problem that is also carried over from the original series. I suppose we can hope that any sequels might have a better balance next time, but knowing Hollywood I wouldn’t count on it.

All in all a really fun adventure film, well worth the watch if you’re interested in animation or Tintin and don’t let all the negative reviews about creepy-eyed corpses put you off.

Ginie

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Ginie Reviews Film: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Film:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Year: 1992
Notable Actors: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins (Keanu Reeves does not count)
Rating: 5/5

Seriously though, who doesn’t love this film? I know the whole vampire-craze has gotten a bit old, but I think if anyone needs reminding why we ever fell in love with vampires in the first place, all they need to do is re-watch this movie. It’s gorgeous, it’s entertaining, it’s creepy and of course, Gary Oldman is just a legend.

So I actually re-watched this film quite recently after not having seen it in a long time, and I was struck by just how much homage it pays to earlier vampire films like Nosferatu, for instance in this scene:

And there were plenty of touches I hadn’t noticed before, like just how awesome and epic the soundtrack is, or how much Coppola plays around with shadows throughout the film.

There were also some freaking hi-larious bits of course, as there is want to be in any film that pays tribute to Hammer Horror. It’s the camp factor, which unsurprisingly I adore. Other hilarious moments mainly involve Keanu Reeves non-acting. I swear a cardboard box could emote more than that man could – which works in it’s own way. Jonathan Harker is meant to be a safe and boring stiff, and I guess that contrast is all that much greater when compared to the sensuality that Gary Oldman oozes as the Count.

I do enjoy Winona Ryder as Mina Harker a great deal – I guess because I can relate in a way. One of the main themes in the movie I guess is sexual repression of the Victorians vs. the sexual ‘immorality’ of the vampires, and up until quite recently I guess I would have described myself as quite sexually repressed. (Thankfully, not anymore – Halleluja!) And even though there is meant to be a morality-tale edge to it (certainly Bram Stoker’s novel was intended as a Victorian morality tale), I don’t think I’d be alone in feeling that it is Gary Oldman’s count and Winona Ryder’s Mina Harker that come across as more sympathetic and relate-able than the wooden Keanu Reeves and the society he represents.  Anthony Hopkins is delightful as the rather mad but entertaining Van Helsing, and Sadie Frost is great as Lucy (other hilarious moments: how Lucy’s boobs apparently have an aversion to actually staying in her nightgown. Apparently the Count’s sexiness is all it takes for boobs to develop a will of their own and want to break free.)

All in all, definitely one of my favourite films and well worth a re-watch if you haven’t seen it in a while. In the meantime I shall leave you with the opening soundtrack – if this doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will.

Ginie

PS

Somewhat belatedly, Happy Halloween!

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