Tag Archives: film review

Ginie Reviews Films: The Love of Siam

Love_of_siam_poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film: The Love of Siam (รักแห่งสยาม)
Director: Chookiat Saveerakul
Year: 2007
Notable Actors: Mario Maurer, Sinjai Plengpanich
Rating: 4.5/5

So I’ve been meaning to write this review for a long time, but to be honest: it had been a long time since I’d last seen this film and I was afraid I wouldn’t do justice to it. Thankfully, my mum gave me a reason to whip it out and as I sought to prove a.) that the Thai movie industry does produce some amazing films and b.) while still a minority of the LGBT representation in Thai pop culture, Thai media is totally capable of representing its gay characters with sensitivity and complexity.

~*Spoilers*~

The Love of Siam follows the story of two childhood friends who reunite in their teens after several years of separation. Tong is from a Roman Catholic family, and as a child his older sister disappeared whilst on holiday in Chiang Mai with her friends. Mew is a sensitive musician-type from an ethnically Chinese family with distant parents. He is closest to his grandmother, who passes away when Mew is in his teens.  Both boys are familiar with losing a loved one and this is what initially brings them together. Their story is further complicated by issues within Tong’s family – since his sister’s disappearance his father has turned towards chronic alcoholism and it is his mother, Sunee, who has to keep it together despite the tragedy as she becomes the sole caretaker and bread-winner of what is left of her family.

Mew and Tong as children,

Mew and Tong as children,

So…not your average teen romantic comedy. Despite the way the film was marketed, the Love of Siam really is just what it says on the tin – it’s about love. All kinds of love. It’s about the love you have for your family, the love you have for your friends and of course, the love you have for the first time you meet someone who touches your soul and sets your heart racing. I’m not going to lie – I tear up every single time I watch this film. Every single time. And although my knowledge of Thai films is by no means extensive, I feel like I watched a significant handful of recent blockbusters and The Love of Siam for me still ranks as one of the best Thai films I’ve ever seen.

First of all, the acting in this film is flawless. I don’t think there is a single weak performance amongst the main cast, although Pchy (Mew) and Sinjai Plengpanich (Sunee) deliver some particularly outstanding performances. Seriously though, both of these two just break my heart every time they’re on screen and just trying to hold it together. This is also of course, the role that launched Mario Maurer’s acting career and it’s certainly one that shows despite being (at the time) an amateur, the boy is definitely more than just a pretty face.

Secondly, although the running time is very long I feel the film really benefits from showing how the lives of these two broken families intertwine, how all these characters interact and the lasting impact they have on each other. While the focal point of the film is on the two boys who’re just coming to terms with their feelings for each other, there is a much wider story being told – after all, life doesn’t just stop happening because you’ve fallen in love. And sometimes, there are bigger things going on that just can’t be put aside.

Really, I think my only complaint with this film would be the role June’s character plays in the narrative. As a dead-ringer for Tong’s missing sister Tang, she gets recruited by Tong and Sunee to pretend to be Tang in an attempt to save Tong’s father from his crippling alcoholism. I guess this was the point where my disbelief officially stopped being suspended. I don’t know what else could’ve been done with this character to make her story-line more believable while keeping the lasting impact she has on Tong’s family, but as it is in the film it is the only thing that rings false to me.

Mew performing at the end of the film.

Mew performing at the end of the film.

I know I’ve read reviews that saw the ending as a bit of a cop-out, as Tong ultimately tells Mew that although he loves him, he cannot be his boyfriend (earlier on in the film when his mother discovers the nature of Mew and Tong’s relationship she forbids Mew from contacting her son and forbids her son from seeing Mew). I can completely understand this reaction – it’s an old and worn-out trope: gay couples can never have a happy ending; things must always end in tragedy. But in defence of The Love of Siam, I actually interpreted the ending as fairly optimistic? I don’t think people necessarily understand the amount of importance placed on duty to one’s parents in Thai culture, and as far as Tong was concerned – he had a duty to his mother and to his family. Growing up with a Thai mom, I have to say that the relationship between (most) Thai parents and their kids, particularly regarding sexuality, is a pretty closed one and my personal experiences have always involved being very patient about when and how I broach the topic with my mom. I’d always understood the ending of the movie as Tong wanting to help his family heal first, help them get to a better place before he could act on his feelings for Mew. Perhaps I had interpreted it too optimistically – but I had always seen that ending as an ambiguously happy one. “I know who I am – and although I cannot be with you yet, one day I will be able to”, or maybe even “I know who I am – and although I can’t have a boyfriend yet, one day I will be able to be open about my feelings for another boy, and that boy may not be you but he will definitely exist”. I had never interpreted that final scene as him repressing his new-found sexuality. Particularly as he had just broken up with his girlfriend prior to the ending scene. By breaking up with his girlfriend, Tong was affirming – at least to himself – that he knew who he was now and he knew that he had to be honest with himself. He was no longer confused about where he stood and was free to admit to himself (and to Mew) that he knows who he loves. I could not believe that anyone who had taken such a self-confident act could deny himself his own happiness forever. And I had always interpreted that scene as an indication that Tong would have to wait for his happiness a little bit longer, but he would definitely get it one day. But of course, I could be wrong and I am always happy to hear alternative view points.

This was Mario Maurer's break-out role. Here he is as Tong at the end of the film looking for Mew after breaking up with his girlfriend.

This was Mario Maurer’s break-out role. Here he is as Tong at the end of the film looking for Mew after breaking up with his girlfriend.

Watching this with my mom I thought I’d observe her and see what she had to say, as I usually use her as my gauge for whether I’ve understood the subtext of a Thai setting correctly. At the end of the film, she said “well they are not together today, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be one day.” And that is exactly what I’d taken away from the ending too.  One day I am hoping for an unambiguously happy ending for Thai gay protagonists, but in the meantime I am incredibly glad this film exists and if you’ve never seen it you should definitely check it out.

On an entirely different note: I am also super in love with the main theme song for this film

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, TV

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film, Review

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Film, Review

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Film, Review