Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Bangkok Love Story

Starring: Rattanaballang Tohssawat, Chaiwat Tongsang, Weeradit Srimalai, Chatcha Rujinanon
Directed by: Poj Arnon
Language: Thai
Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90 minutes

I normally don't watch a lot of Asian movies that are not Japanese or Korean, but I do find a couple interesting works that catch my interest by just the summary. If you hadn't noticed, I'm a pretty open-minded person and I can usually find some things very artistic as oppose to others who don't analyze movies as deeply as myself. One example could be Strange Circus which raises many controversial topics that most would think is for pure shock factor and not delving into the artistic symbolism of the film. This movie isn't for everyone, because the subject deals with homosexuality and touches a bit on HIV/AIDS as well. So, if you don't have an open-mind, you might want to skip this review or even attempt to try something new.

Mhek (Cloud) is a lone gunman who assassinates people as a living. He's very good at what he does and never misses his target. He uses his income to support his mother who is suffering from AIDS and his younger brother who has HIV and plans on taking them to the mountains of Mae Hong Son Province. The movie starts off showing us Mhek doing his job and soon spots his latest target...a police officer by the name of It (Brick), who is enjoying the evening out with his fiancée. After following his target for a good amount of time, Mhek captures It and brings him to his boss, but his boss orders Mhek to kill him and he refuses, saying he only kills the targets that are criminals. This response upsets his boss and the scene breaks out into a gun battle. It helps defend Mhek during the fight and helps him escape once he is hit by a bullet. They hop onto Mhek's motorcycle and head out to the streets. They make a little stop to Mhek's family and It informs them about the situation and passes Mhek's message along to Mhok (Fog), Mhek's brother.

Settling in Mhek's hideout on a rooftop it seems, It consistently takes care of Mhek's bullet wound and nurses him by staying by his side and cleaning him up. As he continues to care for the gunman, It gradually develops feelings for him and soon acts on them. Feeling conflicted with what was going on (and possibly an influence from his past), Mhek later threatens It to leave his home and to never come back.

I must admit, I normally get bored with the majority of romance stories. They become predictable and unrealistic, but this film had more than just romance. It added action, crime, and drama. Bangkok Love Story has a bit of unrealistic emotion, but in a way, you don't mind it, because you're so drawn into the story. The movie doesn't completely depend on mushy moments or graphic sexual scenes to keep your attention nor does it have senseless violence. It goes at a slow easy pace so you can get a good grasp of the characters and gather your opinions on how you feel about them and the situation that's going on around them. This movie allows you to study the characters' body language, the environment, and the emotion translated onto the screen with or without dialogue.

Bangkok Love Story has so many commendable elements that must be recognized in this review. Starting with Rattaballung Tohssawat and Chaiwat Tongsang who play the main male roles as Mhek and It, they both did an amazing job interacting with each other as well as the other characters who have a strong bond with them. Both men have stated that they are straight, I have read that Chaiwat took on the role to challenge himself and Rattaballung said it was an honor to take on a possible homosexual character. The article also stated that Rattaballung's girlfriend was a little paranoid about the kissing scenes, although both men thought they could fake it, but the director didn't want that. Being both heterosexual, it must've been a challenge to be something you're not and they did a great job of having this strong loving bond that you can't help but support. Rattaballung brought masculinity and a sense of wanting to be emotionless to his character. It's difficult to portray a character who believes he is strong and independent, but deep down inside he wants to grab ahold of his true emotions instead of shunning them away. Chaiwat also did just as good of a job being a little more sensitive and also masculine in certain ways. He portrayed the difficult task of wanting to be there for the woman he was planning to spend his life with, but also wanting to be a little selfish and lose himself with his feelings for Mhek. Weeradit Srimalai as Mhok, Mhek's younger brother, had a hard character of being frustrated with the world for judging him and his disease as well as his mother. He had a somewhat weak character that had a lot of pent up frustration building inside him, until he decided to take control of the situation in a way that isn't right. Although she had a minor role like the mother, Chatcha Rujinanon as Sai, It's fiancée, had an important task of moving the story along as well. Like Mhok to Mhek, Sai (Sand) has a close bond to It and the whole subtle emotional shift affected her, which created even more conflict in the movie. She was very quiet, emoted her emotions through her body language, and wasn't oblivious to the distance in her relationship with It like some characters in other movies. She reacted to the situation in a very realistic way, even though it could've been viewed as extreme.

What I've noticed by looking at other people's reviews on the movie is that they mention the beautiful soundtrack and the amazing cinematography used throughout the film, which I can definitely agree with. There are a few moments in the movie where there is absolutely no dialogue just music and great shots of the character(s) in this lavish environment. Not only does the acting pull you into the emotion of character(s), but the music plays a big part of prodding your mind and heart into feeling that same emotion. The scenery completes the rest of the emotional translation on the screen to the viewer's eyes. If you notice, the colors and lighting aren't that cheerful which emphasizes that this is a serious movie and there's a possibility that emotions will be flowing out uncontrollably.

In the end, the love making scenes could've been executed a little better, but they do their job of telling the viewer that there is a lot of emotion built up and the feeling between the two main characters are true. Sometimes the chemistry between them became a little frustrating and you're ready for them to hook up already, but the pace is tolerable. There's a lot of drama that goes on throughout the movie. When you think things are going to be "happily ever after", things tend to go downhill and drag the viewers along with it to the possibility of being in tears by the time the credits roll. If you can handle gunfights, discrimination against people who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and suicide, then you can get through this Thailand masterpiece. Bangkok Love Story is a great movie to watch to get in touch with your inner most feelings about romance and just embracing what true love and sacrifice looks like. I highly recommend this movie and if you're going to watch it, be sure to have the tissue box on stand by, because I nearly cried...which is a very, very hard thing to do.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review: Anna-san no Omame

Title: Anna-san no Omame [The Best Friend of Beautiful Anna]
Starring: Becky, Sayuri Anzu, Shuji Kashiwabara
Language: Japanese
Genre: Romantic comedy
Episodes: 10

Before took a vast majority of the videos down to become a more legitimate place as well as avoid possibly lawsuits, I came across this interesting little Japanese drama. I was a little skeptical that it'd keep my attention, but I made it through the whole series and I even managed to buy it.

Anna Saionji is one of the most beautiful and intelligent women in town that every man dreams of, but...the story isn't about her at all. We follow the series with probably the most misunderstanding and overconfident woman named Lily Momoyama, who is Anna's best friend. In Lily's mind, she believes that she is the most beautiful woman in all of Japan (maybe the world) and every man she comes by wants to be with her. In reality, they're either promoting some charity group, trying to talk to Anna, or, in Kyotaro's case, just trying to be friendly to her. Kyotaro is Anna's boyfriend who's just seeking Lily's approval. Somehow she misinterprets his friendly gestures as a form of flirtation which carries the series through many entertaining and ridiculous antics between the two characters.

Anna-san no Omame is a very entertaining comedic drama. As ridiculous as the situations that occur during Kyotaro's struggle to fix things in Lily's mind, you get attached to the characters in some way. The atmosphere and characters are both equally colorful and it becomes difficult to stop watching. You can tell that the creator had a specific design thought out for each characters' appearances as well as the details of where they work and hang out. It also coordinates with the mood that they want to portray to emphasize the character's emotion.

Although I found her voice and character's personality to be annoying the first three episodes, Becky did an amazing job committing herself to the lovable Lily. Being conflicted with being loyal to her best friend, but also tempted to give into Kyotaro's "affectionate" ways can be a difficult task. Deep down inside, she is a loyal friend and just wants to have a love of her own, if the reality of someone liking her truly hits her. Shuji Kashiwabara as Kyotaro kept his focus of trying to please Anna by taking care of Lily, trying to be loyal to Anna, and also attempting to keep everyone happy while trying not to lose his sanity by fixing Lily's misunderstandings. He doesn't come off as a jerk, but just a kind and frustrated character that you wish you could help during his little crisis. Even though Sayuri Anzu's character Anna doesn't have a huge part, she manages to keep her character memorable by being this loyal, sweet, and understanding friend to Lily. She reflects a true bond in their friendship, despite their first meeting and starting of their lasting relationship. Aside from the three main characters of the series, the other characters were also very delightful and interesting seeing how they interact with Kyotaro and Lily's relationship.

Overall, the drama is a bit of a hit or miss for the general public that enjoys Asian dramas. Some may find the drama to be a bit tedious and annoying with Lily's personality and immediately give up on the series all together. For me, it is definitely worth seeing. I found the storyline to be unique and entertaining and Kyotaro was nice eye candy for 10 episodes. Even though Lily's character is a bit annoying and you kinda pick up her catch phrase after a few episodes, you learn to love her and embrace her misinterpretations.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, May 8, 2009

Quick Movie Review

Imprint (2005, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Takashi Miike joined the "Masters of Horror" series with this unique movie, which was surprisingly in English. The storyline and twists throughout the movie were cleverly executed. I also found the contrast of colors from scene to scene well balanced, although a few could've been better lit. This isn't Takashi's best work, but it's worth looking at. Be warned of the controversial torture scene though.

Red Shoes [Bunhongsin] (2005, South Korea) | Rating: 3.5/5

Who would've thought that a pair of shoes could cause so much trouble. This movie makes you question your trust between your friends and even your own family. This movie displays extreme situations of selfishness and jealousy like "Strange Circus". With such a simple storyline, the director played it out well for viewers to become sucked into this unbelievable, crazy predicament, but keeps you wanting more to come to some sort of reason why everyone's fighting over these shoes.

Prom Night (2008, USA) | Rating: 1/5

I remember a friend wanted to drag me out to this movie in theaters, but I quickly declined, since it's too cliché of a movie for my liking. I watched it a few days ago on TV, out of boredom, and most of my predictions were correct. You take your typical slasher movie formula and apply it to this movie minus the hormonally challenged teen couple. The only two things I was looking forward to in the movie was the purpose of the killings and the ending with the credits. If you want a predictable movie or just some movie to talk at the screen with friends, then this is your movie.

Obsessed (2009, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Even though the storyline isn't anything special, I still wanted to see it and it was kinda worth it. The pace of the movie jumped right into the conflict, letting it build and build and build, until things became uncontrollable for the main characters. The movie did manage to keep my attention and there was minimal scenes with Beyoncé's character's involvement.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Not being a huge comic book fan or a big fan of any X-Men series, I did enjoy this little prequel going into Wolverine's back story. Whether it was accurate or not, I couldn't tell you, but I like the direction it was going. Although, I would have to disagree with some comments made in the preview. It's not as amazing as they make it out to be, but if you saw the other two X-Men movies, then it's worth seeing.