Thursday, August 7, 2008

What's On starting August 7

The film of the Princess arrives!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, August 7

by Thomas Ohlson

Best bet: The Dark Knight (Last call! See it again before it leaves).

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, August 7, 2008. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space. This is Issue Number 41 of Volume 3 of these listings.

There’s a special Tuesday opening for movies next week as it’s the holiday for the Queen’s Birthday and Mother’s Day. Among the movies opening is the grand WALL•E.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Where the Miracle Happens / หนึ่งใจ...เดียวกัน: Thai Drama – Produced by Thai Princess Ubol Ratana 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, an experience which transforms her from a driven business woman into a caring philanthropist who travels around Thailand's rural regions to help develop schools in an effort to improve education.

Some background: The book, and this film based on the book, is obviously inspired by the Princess's tragic loss of her son Khun Poom Jansen in the Indian Ocean when the tsunami hit Phuket in December 2004. Here, the story is that the main character is Pimdao, a businesswoman who loses her daughter in a car accident. Pimdao herself is seriously injured, but survives after a heart transplant. To fulfill the philanthropic wish of her child, Pimdao travels to a remote school in Chiang Rai (the film was shot in Chiang Mai) and tries to help the rural teachers develop proper educational facilities for poor children. The drama surfaces when some of the locals doubt her true intentions and Pimdao has to prove herself while her new heart begins to weaken.

Princess Ubol Ratana, who also had a hand in writing the script, has initiated several projects aimed at the betterment of the Thai people, projects such as “To Be Number One” and “Miracle of Life.” Where the Miracle Happens is a part of the “Miracle of Life” project, which aims to provide education to underprivileged kids in Thailand. Princess Ubol Ratana says that she hopes the movie will be “a vehicle to shed light on the problems faced by children in Thai society.” The movie also focuses on the country’s economic crisis, as well as the family problems many Thai teens face.

Princess Ubol Ratana goes on to explain, “Where the Miracle Happens aims to inspire Thais to lend a hand to one another during hard times. It’s a great way to help those less fortunate than us. We believe the film will act as a model to enhance the thinking of people across the world.” She feels people who watch her movie will come to understand the challenges confronting Thailand, and thus be better equipped to come up with solutions. Proceeds from this film will be used in the development of educational proficiency among Thai people.

The Bangkok Post’s Kong Rithdee interviewed the director of the film, Sirippakorn Wongjariyawat:

"From the beginning, I wrote the screenplay with the goal of using the film to carry the message of the book and the foundation, but I never thought of casting the Princess as Pimdao," says Sirippakorn. "But who else could have played her? It would have been unbecoming of me to tell the Princess to take the role, so I simply told her that the best person to be Pimdao is the person who shares her loss, the one who understands this character completely.

"She understood and agreed to be in the film, on the condition that we all worked together as a team, with me having the final decision. On my part, I asked her to understand my position, and that to be able to create this movie, she had to work according to the culture of film shooting, which involves a lot of people - her schedule to shoot is important, but so are other actors'. She understood my point that it would be a tough job, that she needed to be coached by an acting teacher, and that the movie had to be smaller than we first imagined. It would be an intimate drama, not an epic."

Even with the graciousness of the Princess, Sirippakorn admits that he felt three things during the entire process: fear, worry, and stress. After all, this is the first time a royal personage is a main character in a feature film that deals with genuine drama and human emotions. (Princess Ubol Ratana has had experience doing TV series before). He was aware that if something went wrong, it would leave a spot on the Princess's aura, not his.

But most of all, the director was concerned by the pressure, as all directors are, of creating the kind of realism that the audience can believe in, and to honestly create the character that has a life of its own and demythify the off-screen status and regality of his principle performer. In short, he had to bring down the wall. Normally it would be a sacrilege to set out to make a princess a mere human, a mortal soul inhabiting the alternate universe of the cinema, but in this case it was a duty entrusted upon him by the Princess herself. Sirippakorn had to prove his ability to do that, and then to also prove that he can convince the viewers to see the same.

One scene in the film is central to this. Having already been played as a trailer to the surprise of theatre-goers, the scene has actress Sirapan Watanajinda, playing a tomboy teacher, screaming and pointing at Pimdao in a fit of moral outrage - intense and real. "This woman is not sincere," she hollers, before heaping more abuse on her older co-star. From this side of the screen, this is the first time we see a commoner yell at a princess, and by screening it, that action becomes a repeated public event for all to see.

In a behind-the-scene clip, we see Sirapan, after the director calls "cut"; quickly drop to her knees to ask for forgiveness from the Princess.

* Shaolin Girl / นักเตะสาวเสี้ยวลิ้มยี่: Japan Action /Comedy – 113 mins – The sequel of a little Hong Kong film called Shaolin Soccer, a very successful action comedy by Stephen Chow. This time he collaborates with a Japanese filmmaker, Katsuyuki Motohiro to create a project that stars the popular idol Kou Shibasaki. She takes the role of a girl who returns to Japan after spending 9 years training, to beat a master of Shaolin Kung Fu in China in a lot of fake fighting. All reports indicate it’s a lousy film, but that’s all right, it’s shown only in a Thai-dubbed version, so you wouldn’t likely see it anyway. At Airport Plaza.

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 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 is excellent as the Hamlet-like Bruce Wayne/Batman, Heath Ledger gives a performance that is terrifying in its portrayal of an insane mind, and Gary Oldman (shown left) is one of the very excellent supporting players. 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.

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. Mixed or average reviews, 57/60 out of 100, for the 3D version, which we won’t be seeing here.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai on Tuesday, August 12

There’s a special Tuesday opening next week because of the holiday for the Queen’s Birthday and Mother’s Day. Mamma Mia! has been postponed to August 28.

WALL•E: US Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Romance/ Sci-Fi – Nothing could be more fitting for the Queen’s Birthday than one of the best films of the year! WALL•E is a work of genius from the first frame to the last. Robot love in a dead world, and the cutest love story in years. There's virtually no dialogue for the first 30 minutes; you’ll be enthralled. Reviews: Universal acclaim.

I love one poster for the movie which claims: “In space, no one can hear you clean.”

Rogue: Australia/US Thriller – An American journalist on assignment in the Australian outback encounters a man-eating crocodile. Generally favorable reviews.

Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior / หนุมานคลุกฝุ่น: Thai Action – 90 mins – In the ancient time before Land of Siam was born, there was the time when armies of invaders came to colonize the land and were massacring the population mercilessly. One priest secretly gathered drawings of many animals from all over the world. He bonded the drawings in to a book with great supernatural powers. Then he gave the book to two headman of one Thai tribe to use these drawings to tattoo on his people and fight the invaders. When the land is rid of vandals and peace returns, the sacred book must be divided into many segments and passed on to the most trusted disciples to guard and preserve it. All segments of the sacred book must never fall in to hands of those who seek absolute power.

The time passed and ages went by, the sacred book once again emerged into the hands of rivals. All stories confirm that they were invincible because they were protected by tattoos with supernatural powers. When the segments of the sacred book once again collide, the blood battle of the supernatural animals begins.

Basically, a martial-arts fantasy, and a questionable retelling of Khon drama.

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