Thursday, June 26, 2008

Last chance for Prince Caspian and The Happening!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, June 26

by Thomas Ohlson

Best bets: Hulk. Panda. Prince Caspian. Wanted. Happening (?).

At the end is my list of movie times for Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and for Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, June 26, 2008. Attached is the same list in Word format. There is also information on the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space. This is Issue Number 35 of Volume 3.

By a large margin, the most popular movie in Thailand over this past weekend was the weepy Thai Romance/Drama The Last Moment (Rak-Sam-Sao). Both Prince Caspian and The Happening are probably in their last week.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Wanted: US Action/Thriller – 110 mins – If you think you’ve seen it all in violent and bloody action films, you haven’t yet seen this one: it raises the bar to a whole new level! Visually I think it’s fascinating – there are scenes which I really could not believe I was seeing – and I would say it’s about as exciting as a movie can get. This fast-paced thrill ride, with its dazzling mix of state-of-the-art visual effects, adrenaline-fuelled action sequences, and nail-biting terror, is the first American film by the Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, best known for Night Watch – a stylish horror fantasy film that has pretty much revolutionized Russian cinema.

A young man (James McAvoy) discovers his father is an assassin, and when his father is murdered, the son is recruited into his father's organization and trained by a man named Sloan (Morgan Freemen) to follow in his dad's footsteps, and in the process is transformed from a drone into a dark avenger. Also starring Angelina Jolie and Terence Stamp. Rated R in the US (and richly deserved) for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexuality. Generally favorable reviews: 64/66 out of 100.

The visually stunning Russian director Timur Bekmambetov created the most successful Russian film franchise in history, with his "Night Watch" series. In a country that has never seen a native film make more than $2 million, Night Watch went on to gross eight times that number. Internationally acclaimed, Night Watch was also Russia's contender for the 2004 foreign language Oscar.

Get Smart: US Action/Comedy – 110 mins – A funny and action-filled film, almost as good as having a new James Bond film around. Steve Carell is Secret Agent Maxwell Smart, based on the 60’s US television series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, which made fun of spies in the cold war and secret spy gadgets. Mixed or average reviews: 54/56 out of 100.

The Last Moment / Rak-Sam-Sao / รัก สาม เศร้า: Thai Romance/Drama – 115 mins – By a large margin, the most popular movie in Thailand over this past weekend. A love triangle develops with much weeping between three university friends, one of whom becomes terminally ill.

Puppy Love / Haakao / ฮะ...เก๋า: Thai Comedy/Romance – 95 mins – With Mum Jokmok and other old and new comedy stars, in a story with a bit of female homosexuality, a talking dog, a lady-boy, and ghosts.

The Incredible Hulk: US Action/Sci-Fi – 114 mins – With an excellent performance by Edward Norton, it’s a terrific comic-based action picture with mythic themes – shades of King Kong and Frankenstein. Very exciting indeed, and a top notch production. I’m enjoying this new series of movies from Marvel Studios starring their ever-popular superheroes, which started with the recent excellent Iron Man. Generally favorable reviews: 61/61 out of 100. (No scene after closing credits.)

Kung Fu Panda: US Animation/Action/Comedy/Family – 88 mins – Pure fun! And I laughed a lot. An animated comedy set in the legendary world of ancient China, about a lazy panda who must somehow become a Kung Fu Master in order to save his valley from a villainous snow leopard. Sort of an undated version of the recent Jet Li/Jackie Chan film The Forbidden Kingdom, full of irreverent invention against bright Chinese images, and some dazzling animation. Very assured and accomplished, sharp and funny, with some surprisingly tender moments. Different style in opening sequence, like a modern manga. Painterly backgrounds of mountain views. Jackie Chan voices the monkey, Angelina Jolie voices the tigress, and Dustin Hoffman voices Shifu. Opposed to most films that try to go for just one more cheap laugh, the scene after the credits of Kung Fu Panda is actually very sweet and meaningful. It's almost worth staying for. Generally favorable reviews: 73/72 out of 100.

The Happening: US/India Drama/Sci-Fi – 91 mins – M. Night Shyamalan produces another mysterious film people will either love or hate. Shyamalan is an accomplished director and even if one of his movies does not entirely work, it is sure to be more interesting than your average movie. This film is beautifully crafted, with some excellent scenes of tension and spookiness, and I think an outstanding performance by Mark Wahlberg. If you plan on seeing it, I suggest you don’t read too much about it before you see it – go with an open mind. Rated R in the US for violent and disturbing images, but it seems much of this has been clipped out in Thailand. Generally negative reviews: 35/40 out of 100.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: UK/US Adventure/Family/Fantasy – 147 mins – In this second installment of the series based on the children’s books written by the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, the four children of the Pevensie family who had been appointed kings and queens of Narnia at the end of the first story, return from England one year later to find that 1,300 years have passed in Narnia, and things are not going well. The Golden Age of Narnia has passed, and Narnia is now under the control of an evil king who rules the land without mercy. You will enjoy this sequel if you enjoyed the first film, or if you are interested in Christian allegories (the lion Aslan represents Christ who sacrificed himself to save Narnia at the end of episode one, the White Witch is Satan tempting Edmund, who is Judas, while Peter represents “the Wise Christian”). Or see it if you simply enjoy children’s adventure/fantasy stories. This second episode in the seven book series features bickering between the two rival presumptive kings of Narnia (Peter and Caspian), both of whom fight against streaks of cowardice and uncertainty within their characters. Generally favorable reviews: 63/63 out of 100.

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

The month of movies starring Audrey Tautou ends this week.

On Friday, June 27, 8 pm: Ensemble, c'est tout / Hunting and Gathering (2007) by Claude Berri – 97 mins – France Drama/Romance. English subtitles.

With Audrey Tautou, Guillaume Canet, Laurent Stocker, Francoise Bertin, Hélène Surgère.

The encounter of four people whose paths cross, a fate which results in them coming out of their shells, getting to know and love each other, and living together under the same roof. An office cleaner at night, Grace also does beautiful drawings in her spare time. Philibert, a young aristocrat mad about history, is timid, emotional, and solitary. He lives in a large apartment owned by his family. Franck, virile and tender, is a cook. He deeply loves his grandmother, Paulette, an elderly lady, fragile and amusing. Together they will learn to temper their doubts and sorrows so as to go forward and fulfill their dreams. They’ll discover each other and understand that together they are stronger.

The film marks the latest effort from prolific French filmmaker Claude Berri, who - though pushing 80 - offers up a trio of distinctly authentic 20-something figures and places them within the context of a compelling, surprisingly affecting storyline. This is despite the fact that Philibert ultimately receives short shrift in terms of character development, as he initially comes off as an effete stutterer and eventually (and inexplicably) winds up with a fiancée. Yet this proves not to be as problematic as one might've feared, with Berri's decision to instead place the emphasis on the charming coupling between Franck and Camille ensuring that one can't help but fall hook, line and sinker for the admittedly hackneyed romantic finish (which even includes a variation on the old race-to-the-airport maneuver!) Buoyed by Tautou and Canet's superb work, Ensemble c'est tout is one of those movies that essentially sneaks up on the viewer and makes a far more pronounced impact than one might've initially anticipated.

Reel Film Reviews


On Friday, July 4, 8 pm: La Fleur du mal (2003)/ The Flower of Evil by Claude Chabrol – 104 mins – France Drama/Thriller. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews 67/68 out of 100. Rated R in the US for brief language.

With Benoît Magimel, Nathalie Baye, Mélanie Doutey, Suzanne Flon, Bernard Le Coq, Thomas Chabrol, Henri Attal.

Three generations of a wealthy Bordeaux family are caught in the crossfire when Anne decides to run for mayor, thanks to a political pamphlet that revives an old murder scandal.

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or maybe the roof. A small but nice place to view movies. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

For the month of June, Film Space is concentrating on films about photographers. During the month of July, they will present four DVD collections of animation from Britain’s premier cutting-edge animation and short film enterprise, the organization known as One Dot Zero, which is dedicated to exploring new forms of the moving image. For information on them go to and for a complete listing of the films included in each of the four programs, go to and click on “select dvd1” through “select dvd4.”

At Film Space on June 28, 7 pm: The Village Album / Mura no shashinshuu (1954) By Mitsuhiro Mihara. Japan Drama – 111 mins.

The story: The village of Hanatani will soon be flooded by a dam. Kenichi, the owner of an old photo studio, has a son, Takashi who works as an assistant photographer in Tokyo. One day, they are asked to make "The Village Album,” a photographic collection of all the families in the village in order to preserve the memory of the beautiful village that once existed. Although father and son don't get along with each other very well, they begin visiting each family in the village to take photos. Following him around every day, and eventually carrying him, Takashi's harsh feelings about his father begin to change.

Mitsuhiro Mihara seems to have made six films released in Japan, but almost nothing has been written about any of them in English.

At Film Space on July 5, 7 pm: One Dot Zero 1 – Select DVD1 – Sixteen short films showcasing innovative talent in filmmaking, music video, and motion graphics, along with award winning short films from recent film festivals. For titles, go to

Scheduled for Chiang Mai on July 3

Hancock: US Action/Comedy – 92 mins – A different kind of superhero: edgy, conflicted, sarcastic, and misunderstood. He gets the job done and saves countless lives, but he also seems to leave an awful lot of collateral damage as well. The people of Los Angeles have had enough. So did studio executives according to reports, who after seeing the original cut immediately ordered big changes and several scenes reshot, because the hero was so downbeat, disreputable, and even disgusting. His costume seems to be stolen off the back of a homeless person, and we’re introduced to Hancock as he wakes up on the sidewalk in a pool of his own vomit, reeking of alcohol, and then leaps into the sky to save someone, destroying everything in sight in the process. Hancock likes to party, and seems to be frequently drunk. Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman. Not kid-friendly: There's a lot of bad language, some graphic violence, and more. Early reviews: mixed or average: 47 out of 100.

Friendship / เฟรนด์ชิพ...เธอกับฉัน: Thai Comedy/Romance – With Mario Maurer (of Love of Siam fame) and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk (of Ploy fame), in a high-school romance directed by Chatchai Naksuriya, consisting of “action, drama, sad moments, and comedy,” set in the early 1980s.