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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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