Zohan crassly funny!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, September 11
by Thomas Ohlson
Best bets: WALL•E. Mamma Mia!
To avoid like the plague: Death Race.
Of special note: Starts this week – Trois Couleurs / Three Colors on Fridays September 12, 19, and 26 at Alliance Française.
Here are my comments on the movies playing at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, September 11, 2008. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space. This is Issue Number 46 of Volume 3 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* You Don't Mess with the Zohan: US Action/Comedy – 113 mins – Starring Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, and Rob Schneider. Zohan is an Israeli commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream: becoming a hairstylist in New York. It’s an Adam Sandler comedy, and if you like his kind of low and crass comedy, you should like this one very much. Here he plays the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for laughs. I laughed. A lot. And cringed. A lot.
Roger Ebert: Adam Sandler's new comedy is shameless in its eagerness to extract laughs from every possible breach of taste or decorum, and why am I even mentioning taste and decorum in this context? This is a mighty hymn of and to vulgarity, and either you enjoy it, or you don't. I found myself enjoying it a surprising amount of the time, even though I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. . . . No thinking adult should get within a mile of this film. I must not have been thinking.
Has been banned by censors in Egypt, Lebanon, and the U.A.E., and "is 99% likely that the film will be banned in all Arab countries.” But a huge hit in Israel ("Israelis like to laugh at themselves," says the Israeli distributor). Mixed or average reviews: 54/53 out of 100.
* Burn / Kon Fai Look / คนไฟลุก: Thai Thriller – 90 mins – All you ever wanted to know about “SHC” – Spontaneous Human Combustion. As you certainly know, that’s the familiar medical condition wherein a living human being suddenly bursts into flames. Director Peter Manus examines this serious human malady, and perhaps will show how you can innoculate yourself against this happening to you. Maybe diet can help.
Movieseer: Burn circles around the mystery of Spontaneous human combustion (SHC), the belief that the human body sometimes burns without an external source of ignition. The story follows the investigation of a female victim’s mysterious death caused by SHC. Mona, the daughter of the victim, is an ambitious lawyer who accidentally involves in the crime. She regrets the unfinished reconciliation between her and her mother. The incident brings her to Ploy, a nurse whose mother passed from SHC as well. Both girls seek to find the truth behind their mother’s death. Kwan, a diehard journalist, follows her instinct to unveil the evil force behind the case.
Can this be suicide, murder, accident, or a secretly religious sacrifice? The mystery behind “deadly fire” needs to be revealed before fire erupts.
Bangkok Dangerous: US Action/Drama – 100 mins – Directing twins Danny and Oxide Pang return to remake their popular 1999 thriller about a ruthless hitman (this time Nicolas Cage) who travels to Bangkok in order to carry out four crucial (for him) murders. During the course of his jobs, the triggerman falls in love with a pretty local girl (Hong Kong actress and pop singer Charlie Yeung [or Young] in a quite affecting performance) while also forming a friendly bond with his young errand boy (nicely played by Thai actor Shahkrit Yamnarm, seen at right).
A fairly decent, if cliché ridden and predictable, action flick, shot in some mildly interesting locations in Bangkok. You should be happy with it if you like a somewhat low-powered shoot-em up action picture. And/or are a fan of Nicolas Cage.
Makers of the movie are saying that they were shooting the film in Bangkok during the 19th of September coup d'état two years ago. Filming stopped, but only for six hours. They are fond of claiming that they fired the only shots in the coup.
Rated R in the US for violence, language, and some sexuality. Generally negative reviews: 24/33 out of 100.
Tevada Tokmun / Te-wa-da / เทวดาตกมันส์: Thai Comedy – 90 mins – Some Academy Fantasia 4 winners from the hit TV reality show in a comedy about the misadventures of an angel and a monk.
Mamma Mia!: US/UK/Germany Comedy/ Musical/ Romance – 108 mins – Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth. 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. On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, Sophie invites to the wedding three men from Donna's past, all possibly her father. Popular ABBA music that I find horrifyingly infectious and which I can’t get rid of. Extraordinarily vivacious and energetic musical that is bound and determined to make you sing and dance and feel good about marriage and things like that. Mixed or average reviews: 51/53 out of 100.
Boonchu 9 / Boon-Choo / บุญชู 9: Thai Comedy – 90 mins – A continuation of this popular Thai comedy series. The son of the original Boonchu is a happy monk who is defrocked by his mother and sent to university in Bangkok. There he meets up with new “friends” – two tiny homeless girls – who drug him and mug him. But it all turns out all right eventually because it is foremost a feel-good movie for Thais from start to finish. It’s the gentlest of comedies and family drama, with the sweetest of characters and the homiest of situations. The Thais I saw it with were thrilled with it every moment, and laughed and worried and got upset ever the slightest at the plot complications. They had a thoroughly good time, but I think you need Thai sensibilities to enjoy it, at least to that extent. Has some appealing young stars and well-established older comedians.
Boys Over Flowers: Final / Flower 4 (F4) Final: Japan Romance/Comedy – 130 mins – Wildly popular film in Japan, based on a top selling manga, featuring five popular Japanese idols, following the travails of a working-class girl at an elite prep school who must contend with a four-man clique (the “Flower 4”) of “rich, gorgeous guys” from extremely powerful families. Thai dubbed with no English subtitles.
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.
The Coffin / Longtorai / Long Dtor Dtai / Lhong Tor Tai / โลงต่อตาย: Thai Horror – 90 mins – Ananda Everingham as a claustrophobic architect who participates in coffin rituals to gain a new lease on life. It has much going for it, with a stellar cast and a fine director, but I was mightily confused. It didn’t seem to be the movie that director Ekachai Uekrongtham set out to make. The script won a prestigious prize from the Rotterdam Festival, but the movie hadn’t been made yet, and to get the necessary funding he had to change it into a horror flick, making compromises along the way. The beautifully shot opening sequence of the burial ritual at the temple gives an idea of what the film could have been. And although this is the director’s first English language film, it is shown in Thailand only in a Thai-dubbed version, with English subtitles which don’t jibe with the movement of the lips. The result for me is simply awkward.
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.
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, and have convinced me I don’t wish to see it. The consensus: Little more than an empty action romp – mindless, violent, and lightning-paced. Rated R in the US for strong violence (mauling, maiming, bruising, beating, impalement, immolation, detonation, decapitation) and language. Mixed or average reviews: 42/48 out of 100.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, September 18
My Best Friend’s Girl: US Romance/Comedy – 101 mins – Dustin (Jason Biggs) is dumped by smart, beautiful, and headstrong Alexis (Kate Hudson). Devastated and desperate to get her back, Dustin turns to his best friend, Tank (Dane Cook), the rebound specialist. A master at seducing – and offending – women, Tank offers to help out by to taking her out on a lousy date in order to make her realize how great her former boyfriend was, but he ends up meeting the challenge of a lifetime. Alexis is the first girl he’s met who knows how to call his bluff, and Tank soon finds himself torn between his loyalty to Dustin and a strange new attraction to his best friend's girl.
Also with Alec Baldwin. Rated R in the US for strong language and sexual content throughout, including graphic dialogue and some nudity.
Cyborg She / Cyborg Girl: Japan Romance/Sci-Fi – 120 mins – A touching time-spanning sci-fi romance/comedy that borrows a lot from the Terminator and Back to the Future movies. It’s a love story between a high-tech cyborg from the future and her inventor, the kindly, frail, and physically handicapped Jiro. In the year 2070, Jiro builds a female cyborg as a personal aide to assist him in his daily life. Equipped with a time travel device, Jiro sends the cyborg back to 2007 in an attempt to prevent the incident that crippled him. Directed by Korean Kwak Jae-Young, responsible for the popular 2001 hit My Sassy Girl.
Baan Phee Phop 2008 / บ้านผีปอบ 2008: Thai Horror/Comedy – At least the 11th installment of this popular ghost/ horror/ comedy series. Porp/Pop/Phop seems to be a traditional form of ghost in Thailand, though she is normally depicted as an old hag. There was apparently a glut of really bad “Phop” movies in the 1990s - there have been at least ten films in the Baan Phee Phop series of horror anthologies - so the word has come to mean a generic Z-grade film among Thai film fans.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, September 25
Dive!: Japan Drama – 115 mins – MovieSeer: “Dive takes you to falling over adventure in summer with new-coming young actors of Japan's Entertainment who rival beneath the swimming pool of dream.
“When an outsider diving league struggling to survive, new generation of divers are challenged and intensively compete to be the best of the divers. Their only goal is to be the one who partakes in Olympic Games. The competition brings them the meaning of love, friendship, devotion and a big challenge of their life in the final.”
More succeintly, Dive! is a teen sports flick based on a best-selling Japanese novel, and follows the diving dreams of three teenagers, played by Ikematsu Sosuke (left), Mizobata Junpei (right), and Hayashi Kento (center), who won Best Newcomer at the 31st Japan Academy Awards. The three young stars underwent diving training for three months in order to convincingly portray their characters onscreen.