Thursday, July 3, 2008

Superhero Hancock swoops into town, drunk, destroys buildings!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Wednesday, July 2

by Thomas Ohlson

Best bets: Hulk. Panda. Wanted.

These are the movies playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week (and a day) beginning Wednesday, July 2, 2008. This is Issue Number 36 of Volume 3.

The new movies arrived on Wednesday this week. The US powers behind Will Smith’s Hancock, worried about its reception and wanting to get opening weekend attendance figures as high as possible, somehow convinced nearly the entire world to open it on Wednesday, and to count Wednesday, as well as Thursday, as part of the Friday-Sunday weekend. Cheating! So Thailand producers did the same with the other film opening, the Thai romance Friendship.

The most popular movie in Thailand over this past weekend was Wanted. Both The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Happening have departed the local scene.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Hancock: US Action/Comedy – 92 mins – There’s no doubt about it: Will Smith has a lot of charisma for a majority of moviegoers, including me. Here he plays an unsympathetic character, much against type, and has to work to gain our good will. Reviewers have widely diverse views on this one. I was only minimally amused. Smith plays 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 such a drunk — and 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, reeking of alcohol, and then leaps into the sky to save someone, destroying everything in sight in the process. The result of all the frantic last-minute editing and newly shot scenes is a mess, frankly, but a mess with much to enjoy for fans of Will Smith. Also starring Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman. Not kid-friendly: There's a lot of bad language, some graphic violence, and more. Mixed or average reviews: 50/51 out of 100.

* Friendship / เฟรนด์ชิพ...เธอกับฉัน: Thai Comedy/Romance – 82 mins – With Mario Maurer (of Love of Siam fame) and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk (of Ploy fame), in a high-school romance directed by Chatchai Naksuriya. I was less than enchanted – it seemed to me unrelated to the real life of people, either young or mature, and somewhat amateurish in writing, acting, and directing. But fans of Thai romances may well take to the unrealistic happenings between the two likeable leads.

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.

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. At Vista only.

The Last Moment / Rak-Sam-Sao / รัก สาม เศร้า: Thai Romance/Drama – 115 mins – A love triangle develops with much weeping between three university friends, one of whom becomes terminally ill. Nation reviewer: Barely watchable: 40 out of 100.

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.) At Vista only.

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. At Vista only.