Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, July 31
by Thomas Ohlson
Best bets: The Dark Knight. Hellboy.
To avoid like the plague: The Strangers.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: US/Germany/Canada Action /Adventure /Fantasy – 114 mins – A shame! All this talent, all this fantastic attention to detail, wasted on a mess of a movie that is nothing but one bang after another, one explosion after another, one bloody fight after another, one chase after another, all to no purpose. There is so little restraint, so little taste. It is as though the creators just threw into the mix everything they could think of, and then confused it all with very fast editing, to simply make a loud blur of action. Ignore this one, unless of course you like mindless action, one bang after another, and the rest. Apparently some people do.
It’s a ludicrously extravagant tale of "a mythic battle between good and evil played out in ancient China," as a narrator informs us. It's been seven years since The Mummy Returns and as Brendan Fraser says in this movie, "Here we go again!" Fraser is Rick O'Connell, and he and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello) are British aristocrat-adventurers who have retired apparently living richly off of the $800 million worldwide box office of the first two "Mummy" films. They head East in hopes of re-capturing the adrenalin of adventure and meet up with their grown son Alex (Luke Ford).
There the three unearth the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin, China's ruthless Dragon Emperor, doomed by a double-crossing sorceress to spend eternity in suspended animation, along with his 10,000 warriors, entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army until the three O’Connells are tricked into awakening them from eternal slumber.
Also starring Jet Li (seen right) and Michelle Yeoh. Generally negative reviews: 24/36 out of 100.
The Dark Knight: US Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – 152 mins – I think it’s just a wonderful film, but not everyone agrees; I find it dark, complex, and unforgettable, it succeeds for me not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling and disturbing crime drama. If you enjoy either type of film, don’t miss this one. Christian Bale (right) is excellent as the Hamlet-like Bruce Wayne/Batman. And Heath Ledger gives a performance that is terrifying in its portrayal of an insane mind. I would suggest, however, that the film is not for kids – it’s way too dark for them to appreciate or even understand. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82/80 out of 100.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: US Action/Fantasy – 119 mins – Again directed by Guillermo del Toro and again starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy, this presents again a dark and difficult fantasy world full of fantastical creatures. It’s a brilliant nightmare, and almost too rich, almost too much to keep up with – one is truly overwhelmed with astonishing visuals and strange stories. I admire this director; his imagination is unbounded. Generally favorable reviews: 78/73 out of 100.
Journey to the Center of the Earth: US Action/Adventure/Fantasy – 92 mins – Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem. During a scientific expedition in Iceland, visionary scientist Trevor Anderson, his 13-year-old nephew and their beautiful local guide, are unexpectedly trapped in a cave from which their only escape is to go deeper and deeper into the depths of the Earth. It’s utterly preposterous, but fun, as the trio travel through never-before-seen worlds, and come face-to-face with surreal creatures – including man-eating plants, giant flying piranha, glow birds, and even dinosaurs. Can’t stand the smart-assed kid – I would have offed him after about his third line of dialogue. Mixed or average reviews, 57/60 out of 100, for the 3D version, which we won’t be seeing here.
21: US Drama – 123 mins – Kevin Spacey is a crafty professor who trains brainy students to cheat by counting cards and then flies them to Las Vegas to raid the blackjack tables. I found it intermittingly interesting, and I do like Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne. It is based on real occurrences in the mid 1990’s when a group of MIT students got together to count cards at Las Vegas on weekends, and did succeed for a while in breaking the bank. For info on the background, visit IMDb here. Mixed or average reviews: 48/51 out of 100.
The Strangers: US Thriller/Horror – 85 mins – Repellent and repulsive. If I were in charge of things, it would be banned. Shows kids how much fun it is to terrorize people, and details how to do it. Why thoughtful, sane people aren’t boycotting it is a mystery. Three malevolent, masked strangers terrorize a couple in their isolated vacation home. Rated R in the US for violence/terror and language. Mixed or average reviews: 47/48 out of 100.
Wor / Woh Mah Ba Maha Sanook / ว้อ หมาบ้ามหาสนุก: Thai Horror/Comedy – The usual comedians and an unusual (and mad) dog.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai on August 7
Mamma Mia!: US/UK/Germany Comedy/ Musical/ Romance – Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth. Relentlessly chick-flick, or rather chick-musical, with insistent Abba music that you will not be able to get out of your mind – be warned! Donna, an independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, is about to let go of Sophie, the spirited daughter she's raised alone. . For Sophie's wedding, Donna has invited her two lifelong best girlfriends, while Sophie has secretly invited three guests of her own: three men from Donna's past, all possibly her father, to the Mediterranean paradise they visited 20 years earlier. Mixed or average reviews: 51/53 out of 100.
Where the Miracle Happens: Thai Drama – Produced by Thai Princess Ubolrat Ratchakanya, this film premiered in Cannes on May 16, and is a drama adapted from a story in her book, “Rueng San Tee Chan Kit” (“Short Stories from My Thoughts”). The Princess also stars in the film as a successful businesswoman who values only material things until she loses her only daughter in a car accident.
The scores given, on a basis of 100, are from two web sources. The first, in bold, is from Metacritic.com, and the other is from RottenTomatoes.com. Both read a great number of critics and convert what is said into scores, which are then averaged. For movies released in the US only.