WALL•E in space, Ananda in a coffin!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, August 21
by Thomas Ohlson
Best bets: WALL•E. Where the Miracle Happens.
To avoid like the plague: Death Race. Hanuman.
At the end is my list of movies playing at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, August 21, 2008. This is Issue Number 43 of Volume 3 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* The Coffin / Longtorai / โลงต่อตาย: Thai Horror – 90 mins – Thai superstar Ananda Everingham as a claustrophobic architect who nevertheless participates in obscure coffin rituals which are a part of the colorful traditional Thai belief systems.
* Death Race: US Action/Thriller – 90 mins – The most twisted spectator sport on earth as violent criminals vie for freedom by winning a race driving monster cars outfitted with machine guns, flamethrowers, and grenade launchers. The previews are the most repulsive imaginable.
Read this by Todd Brown in Twitch: The race is over. The competition is won. The arrival of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race - even though it comes so very early in the year - has put a conclusive end to the race for the 2008 Razzie Awards. Worst film? Worst director? Worst screenplay? Worst actress? Not only will Death Race take all of these categories but the competition won’t even be close. There is quite simply no chance whatsoever that any other film will arrive on the scene to rival this - the latest in a long, long line of very, very bad films from Anderson - for if anyone should even attempt to create another film at this level of ineptitude within the rest of the calendar year I have no doubt that the universe would spontaneously implode in protest of having to play host to such an indignity. This, people, is a Very Bad Film.
Rated R in the US for strong violence and language. Early reviews: Already considered the worst film of 2008.
* Mheejou / อาข่าผู้น่ารัก: Thai Drama – 79 mins – A perky little Akha hill tribe girl from Thailand's most northern region, and a youthful NGO who arrives at her village to build a small community TV station.
* Made of Honor: US Comedy – 101 mins – A piece of fluff about, what else, love problems, with the appealing stars Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan. Generally negative reviews: 37/39 out of 100.
WALL•E: US Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Romance/ Sci-Fi – 98 mins – It’s a work of genius from the first frame to the last! Robot love on a dead Earth, and the cutest love story in years. There's virtually no dialogue for the first 40 minutes; you’ll be enthralled. And the brilliant animation continues throughout the closing credits. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 93/85 out of 100. There’s a terrific Pixar cartoon before the feature.
Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior / หนุมานคลุกฝุ่น: Thai Action – 90 mins – Utter trash, and the biggest argument yet for imposition of censorship, let alone a rating system. Not only not fit for kids; not fit for adults either. Detailed beheadings with close-ups of the surprised looks on the faces of the decapitated heads, loving depictions of skin being slowly ripped off of humans, and worse. All involved should be heavily fined, and jailed.
Rogue: Australia/US Thriller – 92 mins – An American journalist on assignment on a tourist river boat in the Australian outback which encounters a man-eating “rogue” crocodile. A modest and effective thriller, with some extraordinary shots of the breathtakingly-forbidding Australia harshness, accompanied by some quite excellent music throughout by François Tétaz which captured for me the beauty and danger of the location, and which includes in its mix aboriginal vocals and didgeridoo droning. The whole is a sort of study of crocodiles and crocodile lore by the director/writer Greg Mclean, who seems to really love the subject, and who seems very fond of the Northern Territory landscape. Rated R in the US for language and some creature violence (some of which has been clipped by the paternalistic Thai censors). Early reviews: Mixed or average – 60/77 out of 100. At Airport Plaza.
Where the Miracle Happens / หนึ่งใจ...เดียวกัน: Thai Drama – Make no mistake, this is a powerful plea for compassion towards neglected segments of Thai society – the uneducated and exploited people, many hill-tribe, that are not really citizens of Thai society. It’s a plea for giving everyone living in Thailand at least the opportunity for education and health care, and freedom from exploitation.
Produced by Thai Princess Ubolratana 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”). Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana also stars in the film as a successful businesswoman, Pimdao, 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.
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.
The message is clear: those who have the means – the riches from the Thai economy – need to take a paternal interest in the country as a whole. It’s one’s responsibility, and is simply the decent thing to do for a country that has been good to you. HRH Princess Ubolratana, who also had a hand in writing the script, has herself initiated several projects aimed at the betterment of the Thai people, projects such as “To Be Number One” and “Miracle of Life.” This film is a part of the “Miracle of Life” project, which aims to provide education to underprivileged children in Thailand. And, in fact, proceeds from this film will be used in the development of educational programs among Thai people.
Princess Ubolratana 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.
HRH Princess Ubolratana continues, “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.
It’s a heart-felt plea, told in basic and simple dramatic terms, with the standard ingredients of Thai drama and comedy fused into a quite moving film. The Princess acquits herself quite beautifully as the prime actor of the film. The production values are top rate – the photography is luscious.
If you relax and let yourself be drawn into the story, there’s no way you won’t be very affected at story’s end – I admit it, I was in tears.
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 here) and Michelle Yeoh. Generally negative reviews: 31/37 out of 100, but nevertheless seems to be quite popular here.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai on Thursday, August 28
Boonchu 9: Thai Comedy – A continuation of the popular Thai comedy series. The son of the original Boonchu is a happy monk who is defrocked by his mother and sent to a university in Bangkok. There he meets up with new “friends” – two homeless kids, Kratay and Krateng – who, as friends will do, drug him and mug him.
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.