Tag Archives: Thai

Capsule film reviews: Foreign LGBT movies (part 4)

‘The Way He Looks’ (Brazil)
Release Date: April 10, 2014
Director: Daniel Ribeiro
Starring: Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi and Tess Amorim
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A

Photo courtesy of Vitrine Films.

“The Way He Looks” is actually a wonderful, creative coming-of-age movie. It centers on Leo (Ghilherme Lobo), a blind Brazilian high school student, who longs to gain his independence and study abroad in the United States despite the fears of his overprotective parents. The solid relationship he has with his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) is challenged when he begins pursuing a romance with Gabriel (Fabio Audi), the new boy in school. This interesting story is a breath of fresh air for the coming-of-age/gay teen romance genre. There are so many things “The Way He Looks” does well. The budding young love is perfectly paced, and the awkward jealousy between best friends when one starts dating is beautifully illustrated. Even Leo’s parents are well-written, complex characters that offer depth to the story rather than serving as stock characters to further the protagonist’s plotline. The film handles both Leo’s blindness and his sexuality tactfully, and it results in a really well-done, believable film.

‘Velociraptor’ (Mexico)
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Director: Chucho E. Quintero
Starring: Pablo Mezz, Carlos Hendrick Huber and Alan Aguilar
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Fantasy
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: A

Photo courtesy of TLA Releasing.

I have been looking forward to watching “Velociraptor” for a long time: a Spanish-language gay drama set against the backdrop of an apocalypse? That is right up my alley. And I’m so glad that the film exceeded my expectations. In “Velociraptor,” Álex (Pablo Mezz) and Diego (Carlos Hendrick Huber) are best friends spending some casual time together as the end of the world creeps closer and the people around them react accordingly. For Álex, who is gay, it particularly bothers him that he’s never found a guy he trusts enough to go all the way. And Diego is a really (really, very, very) supportive friend. “Velociraptor” greatly succeeds because of the amazing chemistry between the two leads, who are (for the most part) the only real characters in the entire movie. The characterization is believable and the tangible sexual tension is captivating. The storyline is excellent and super unconventional, which makes “Velociraptor” such a valuable contribution to queer cinema. I also love the well-executed flashback scenes that add depth to the story, as well as the voiceovers reporting on the status of planet Earth. “Velociraptor” will make you think about friendship and the ways people limit themselves in order to fit into society. Definitely one to check out.

‘How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)’ (Thailand)
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2015
Director: Josh Kim
Starring: Ingkarat Damrongsakkul, Thira Chutikul and Jinn Jinna Navarat
Genre: Drama
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: B+

Photo courtesy of Wolfe Video.

On the eve of Thailand’s annual military draft lottery, now-21-year-old Oat is haunted by memories of his childhood and his first experience with the drafting process. The majority of the film takes place in flashbacks to Oat (Ingkarat Damrongsakkul) as an 11-year-old orphan growing up in the outskirts of Bangkok with his aunt, younger sister and older brother. “How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)” shows Oat beginning to lose his innocence and grow up as his brother Ek (Thira Chutikul) prepares to face the draft lottery and the corrupt system that is stacked against them. While Oat trains himself to beat Ek at a game of checkers so he can finally be allowed to accompany him to the gay bar where he works as an escort, the young boy also learns how adults “win” at real life: by doing whatever it takes. Although I would have liked to see more development of adult Oat in the present-day sequences, I think “How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)” is a great, well-done film. I enjoyed the characterization of Oat and Ek, as well as several supporting characters, including Ek’s more privileged long-term boyfriend Jai (Jinn Jinna Navarat) and their friend Kitty (Natarat Lakha), who is exempted from the draft because she is transgender.

‘Jongens’ (aka. ‘Boys’) (Netherlands)
Release Date: Feb. 9, 2014
Director: Mischa Kamp
Starring: Gijs Blom, Ko Zandvliet and Stijn Taverne
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: Not Rated
Grade: C+

jongens

Photo courtesy of Pupkin Film.

“Jongens” (translated from Dutch as “Boys”) is all right for a quick little teen angst/romantic drama. Fifteen-year-old Sieger (Gijs Blom) lives with his single father (Ton Kas) and rebellious older brother Eddy (Jonas Smulders) after his mother’s death. He and his friends spend most of their time training as key runners on the local track team. When he is chosen as one member of a relay team that will compete in an important upcoming race, Sieger begins developing feelings for Marc (Ko Zandvliet), another boy on the team. Blom’s acting is pretty good: he does an impressive job conveying a lot of emotion with minimal dialogue, often by exchanging pointed glances with Zandvliet as Marc. The scenery is nice, and the accompanying soundtrack is a good complement to the storyline. Unfortunately, the plot is not particularly captivating or original, and the ending of “Jongens” is disappointingly ambiguous and anticlimactic. I didn’t dislike the film at all, but I probably wouldn’t watch it again. I would recommend this film, but I would recommend it to someone who hasn’t seen many films about gay romance yet, so the story may still be intriguing and new.

Check out more capsule film reviews of foreign LGBT movies here, here and here.

The best street food in Bangkok, Thailand

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A street vendor cooks up some tasty sausages in a stall on the street in Bangkok. SCREAMfmLondon

One of the biggest joys of visiting Thailand’s capital is trying some of the world-famous Bangkok street food. Every neighborhood in the city smells delicious because there is always someone cooking around each corner. From heavily-trafficked tourist areas to quiet residential neighborhoods, Bangkok certainly serves up some exquisite street food. Here are a few of my favorites:

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This Thai coconut ice cream is divine. It’s even better served inside a halved coconut, topped with peanuts and drizzled with coconut milk. SCREAMfmLondon

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This omelette is incredible. It’s stuffed with bean sprouts and a ton of seafood: shrimp, calamari, etc. It’s sprinkled with pepper and served with sweet and sour dipping sauce. SCREAMfmLondon

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There is so much fresh fruit for sale in Bangkok! Fresh fruit juice is sold for about 50 cents a bottle every few feet, and gigantic fruit smoothies are also abundantly available. SCREAMfmLondon

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These flavorful sausages are served on a bed of greens with a few hot peppers on the side. SCREAMfmLondon

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If only a photograph could capture how amazing this smells. It lured me in with the sweet aroma of vanilla cake wafting through the air. It’s a freshly-made pancake stuffed with banana and covered with sweet syrup. Phenomenal. SCREAMfmLondon

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Large portions of delicious roast chicken were sold for only 50 cents and were so satisfying. SCREAMfmLondon

Guide to: Viking Nature Resort on Koh Phi Phi

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The Viking Nature Resort on Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. SCREAMfmLondon

I drank a piña colada. I rocked gently in a hammock, enjoying the late-night sea breeze. I dug my toes into the sand and gawked at a school of striped fish swimming between rocks. I watched crabs scuttling out of the waves. I slept on a bamboo bed in a chic treehouse-style resort. I only inhaled a little bit of salt water. It was the perfect tropical getaway thanks to the Viking Nature Resort on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.

The Phi Phi Islands are located to the west of the Thai mainland just before you reach the large, well-known island of Phuket. Koh Phi Phi Don is the most famous and most populated, although Koh Phi Phi Leh has also gained notoriety (the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” was filmed there, and everyone you meet will mention this a million times).

To get there, I took a ferry ride from Phuket that entertained us with “Mr. Bean” reruns for the entire three-hour journey. The ferry makes a few stops on the Phi Phi Islands, but I got off at Tonsai Bay, where Viking Nature Resort had a longtail boat waiting for me.

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Look at the color of that water! SCREAMfmLondon

We jetted off across the most gorgeous, turquoise water I’ve ever seen. After spending so many years seeing unappetizing mustard-colored foam wash up on Venice Beach, I didn’t realize the ocean could still be this beautiful. The water at Koh Phi Phi Don is clear and calm, surrounded by huge limestone cliffs covered in thick greenery.

Slowly, the Viking Nature Resort materialized out of the foliage. It’s also beautiful: there is a rustic wooden swing out front, and someone was getting a massage underneath some palm fronds. No sooner had I hopped off the boat into the perfectly temperate water than I had a jar of sweet tea placed in my hand. While I waited for my room, I sampled the sweet and sour fried fish (delicious!) and cocktails (delicious!) from the onsite restaurant. I splashed around in the water on the secluded beach out front and wondered how I’d gotten lucky enough to experience this.

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I never want to leave this beach. SCREAMfmLondon

Finally, I was led to my room. I stayed in Makmai 3C, one of two upstairs rooms in the luxurious Makmai villa. The room is a brisk walk from the lobby and restaurant that involves steep inclines, dirt paths, dodging tree roots and a formidable flight of stairs up to the actual treehouse — but the payoff is incredible!

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This is the life. SCREAMfmLondon

There is a large wooden balcony equipped with a personal hammock, several sets of bamboo tables and chairs, and a fabulous view of the ocean through the trees. The interior was equally impressive: rustic wood and bamboo furniture, high ceilings, a beaded shell curtain in the doorway, a spacious bed, a shower that I wish I had known produced salt water before I stuck my entire face into it.

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My room: Makmai 3C at the Viking Nature Resort on Koh Phi Phi. SCREAMfmLondon

The room came with complementary breakfast and great service from all members of the staff. One night’s stay in the Makmai room was 2,800 THB, which is roughly $77. Pretty wildly expensive by Thailand’s standards, but an incredible deal for the lavish experience.

I could have spent weeks basking in the luxury of the Viking Nature Resort, and I hope I’ll get the chance to go back.

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Breakfast on the beach on Koh Phi Phi. SCREAMfmLondon