Tropic Thunder! And the Queens. (Chihuahua postponed.)
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, October 23
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Tropic Thunder. Queens of Langkasuka.
Here is my list of movies scheduled for Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and for Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, October 23, 2008. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks. This is Issue Number 52 of Volume 3 of these listings.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua has been rescheduled for December 4.
Body of Lies which was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and which I liked very much, succumbed to the curse of all recent movies revolving around Iraq and the war on terror: It has not done well anywhere, and is gone from Chiang Mai this week. A pity. It was an exciting spy movie as dark as night and as ruthless and vile as Abu Ghraib. It was smart and tightly drawn and had a throat-gripping urgency, with some serious insights. I hope you saw it.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Tropic Thunder: US Comedy/War – 107 mins – I have seen this, and it is absolutely outrageous, even more outlandish than Zohan. Robert Downey, Jr. is on a roll recently, and this is another truly amazing performance from this acting genius. Here he plays a very method actor who, when given the role of a black in a movie, had his skin pigmentation blackened surgically so as to better play the part. (See him in the picture to the right.) Unbelievable! – and if you’re not thoroughly put off by the idea, you might just have the best laughs you’ve had in years. I heartily recommend the film, but only for those not easily shocked. Rated R in the US for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content, and drug material. Generally favorable reviews: 71/72 out of 100.
Also starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Tom Cruise. It’s an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the biggest war film ever. After ballooning costs (and the out of control egos of the pampered cast) threaten to shut down the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast deep into the jungles of Southeast Asia where they inadvertently encounter real bad guys. Directed by Ben Stiller.
* Queens of Langkasuka / Puen yai jom salad / Puenyai chom salat / ปืนใหญ่จอมสลัด: Thai Drama/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ History – 140 mins – Nonzee Nimibutr's 200-million-baht historical action-fantasy, more than three years in the making, has been poorly received at screenings in the Cannes Film Market and at Venice, but It made a big splash in its Asian premiere at the Bangkok International Film Festival two weeks ago and there were kind words about the action and actor Dan Chupong..
It has all the makings of a blockbuster – big stars, loads of special effects, lavish costumes and an exotic seaborne setting.
Wise Kwai: Leading the cast is Jarunee Suksawat, who was a major star back in the 1980s and '90s. This marks her return to the big screen. Prominent leading man Ananda Everingham has a major role as a loin-cloth-clad Aquaman who can communicate with the marine life. Action star Dan Chupong plays a loyal military commander of the queen. The story has something to do with a really huge cannon that sinks in the sea. Possession of that big gun is key to holding the ancient land of Langkasuka.
Nonzee worked on a script with S.E.A. Write Award-winning writer Win Lyovarin, and the story takes place around 400 years ago in areas that today are part of Malaysia and southern Thailand.
Originally envisioned as a two-parter, and then cut down into one 140-minute movie, critics have complained it's too long.
Hollywood Reporter: Sumptuous to a sin in production and costume design, with whirlwind action sequences merging realistic Thai boxing with theatrical 90s Hong Kong style stunts, it has the nostalgic charm of classics like Sinbad the Sailor and a truly exhilarating sea battle at the end. . . . With sorcery and swordplay, fairytale romance, pan-Asian characters, amazing marine cinematography, dolphins and whales, even kamikaze hang-gliders, the story actually boils down to an arms race to see who's got the bigger cannon.
Max Payne: US Action/Crime/Drama/Thriller – 99 mins – Starring Mark Wahlberg, with Chris O'Donnell, Beau Bridges, and Ludacris. Based on the popular interactive video game, this is the story of a maverick cop determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his family. Hell-bent on revenge, his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmare journey into a dark underworld. Basically for fans of action movies in general and this video game in particular, but I do think the film has some striking and stylish visuals in a somber mood, which I really enjoyed looking at, and an intense performance by Wahlberg. (There’s an added snippet at the end of the credits which promises a sequel.) Generally unfavorable reviews: 30/34 out of 100.
Andrew L. Urban says: Unquestionably energetic and visually stimulating, Max Payne is non-stop action, with everything made in the equivalent of writing in capital letters. You can't miss the revenge mission, nor the profound hurt suffered by Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) on the loss of his pretty wife and baby girl, nor the evil conspirators who've developed a drug for soldiers that only works a little bit and sends everyone else mad. It's this drug that is the cause of all the evil and the reason why the corporation that developed it wants to kill the story - and anyone who knows about it. But no spoilers here....
Louise Keller: There are guns blazing, mysterious winged creatures, a symbolic tattoo, an elusive blue elixir, an unresolved murder, and big stunts, yet Max Payne is surprisingly lackluster. Based on a video game, there's plenty happening on screen, but it's hard to feel much for any of the characters, even Mark Wahlberg's brooding Max, who is obsessed to avenge the senseless murder of his wife and child. The storytelling is secondary to the action with adverse results as director John Moore battles to create a credible world couched between reality and fantasy. To me, the most striking element is the production design in which perpetual snow falls, gusts whirl over a snowy backdrop and torrential rain teems down soaking volatile characters at vulnerable moments.
There's no shortage of firepower (Max shoots everyone in sight) and even if you ignore some of the plot's unanswered questions, we are left with a cavalcade of bullets, noise, and chaos.
City of Ember: US Adventure/Family/Fantasy – 95 mins – With Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Martin Landau. It has almost everything one could want from a science fiction-based family film: likeable characters, an imaginative setting, and a fast pace – plus a subtly dark feel rarely seen in kids' movies. But for me the fabulously designed underground metropolis proved more involving than the teenagers running through its streets. The story: For over 200 years the crumbling, labyrinthine underground city of Ember has been run by a generator. Now it is breaking down and no one knows how to repair it. Ominous blackouts regularly plunge the city into darkness and supplies are depleted. Because the people of Ember, forbidden to venture into the above-ground world, have forgotten their past, they face subterranean extinction. But not to worry: the boundless resourcefulness of two curious, clean-cut adolescents full of gee-whiz enthusiasm may lead humanity back into the fresh air and sunlight. Mixed or average reviews: 58/61 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
E-Tim Tai Nae / อีติ๋มตายแน่: Thai Action/Comedy – Director Yuthlert Sippapak’s new film is written by and stars comedian Udom Taepanich (known by his nickname “Nose” or “Note”). Note plays a boxer, Ei-Ting, performing in a boxing show in Pattaya. He meets a Japanese tourist named Itemi (Asuka Yanagi) or “E-Tim” and falls head over heels for her. At the end, Ei-Ting has to prove his love for E-Tim and to prove he is worthy of her attentions. Looks dreadful, unless you like comedy based on the torturing of male genitalia, by smashing testicles. (Supposedly, according to Wise Kwai, this is a parody of a similar torture scene in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, where Daniel Craig as 007 is sitting naked on a chair with the seat cut out, and a heavily knotted rope is swung with great force under the hole in the seat. Here they graduate from a simple knot to the use of a spiky durian. If this is your idea of fun comedy, you can watch this very long 3-minute sequence in the trailer here and then spare yourself the agony of going to the movie.) After seeing this preview in the theater, I could not believe that they would call it a comedy. Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee calls it a “largely unfunny, shabby comedy ... with poor scriptwriting and lackluster gag-spinning by its lead.” The Nation’s Wise Kwai describes it as “only fitfully humorous. And as a romance, it's not all that attractive.”
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: US Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – 90 mins – A new adventure in the "Star Wars" series, here done with animation. The movie has gotten generally negative reviews, most saying that the mechanical animation and a less-than stellar script make The Clone Wars a pale shadow of George Lucas' once great franchise, and a cheap excuse for a big-screen spectacle. It’s more like a long Saturday morning cartoon, and a trailer for the upcoming new Star Wars series on the Cartoon Network. Parents may be perturbed by the film's relentless violence. Generally negative reviews: 35/31 out of 100. At Vista only.
Luang Pee Teng II / The Holy Man II / หลวงพี่เท่ง 2 รุ่นฮาร่ำรวย: Thai Comedy – Bad boy becomes monk, meets misadventures, makes merit. The first Luang Pee Teng was the No. 1 Thai film at the box office in 2005, even beating out Tony Jaa in Tom Yum Goong. This second of the series has a new star: Thai rapper, hip-hopper, and ex-skateboarder Joey Boy. The cast is fleshed out by the usual contingent of Thai TV comedians.
Eagle Eye: US Action/Mystery/Thriller – With Shia LaBeouf and Billy Bob Thornton. In Eagle Eye, Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf) and Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) are two strangers thrown together by a mysterious phone call from a woman they have never met. Threatening their lives and their family, she pushes Jerry and Rachel into a series of increasingly dangerous situations using the technology of everyday life to track and control their every move. As the situation escalates, these two ordinary people become the country's most wanted fugitives, who must now work together to discover what is really happening. Fighting for their lives, they become pawns of a faceless enemy who seems to have limitless power to manipulate everything they do. At Vista only.
The script has the feel of something once substantive, but which was poked, prodded, cut, and crimped until all semblance of intelligence was wrung out of it. Apparently, it means to say something about anti-terrorism surveillance and civil liberties, but most reviewers who try to say what it’s about, say it's about as dumb as can be.
Mixed or average reviews: 43/45 out of 100.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, October 30
Saw V: US Action/ Crime/ Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 92 mins – Oh, dear! Just in time for Halloween, I suppose. More of the same torture and gore. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) might be dead, but his traps live on in this fifth “Saw” entry, which finds the series' production designer David Hackl at the helm for his debut directing stint. Saw IV writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan return for more mind-bending sadism. Rated R in the US for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language, and brief nudity.
Yes, the sinister plans of Jigsaw continue in this next sequel of the "Saw" movies, with even bigger traps, such as the glass box trap, (which as you know was originally planned to be used in Saw IV, but is explored more painfully in Saw V) and the usual life and death situations, all of which we have come to expect from the "Saw" films. Saw V hopes to put the misery out of anxious movie lovers, as it explains what happened to Corbett, the daughter of Lynn Denlon and Jeff Reinhart, following the conclusion of Saw III that left her in imminent danger. And, Billy the puppet and the red tricycle are further explained, thank heavens! Detective Hoffman also appears, continuing on from Saw IV – he is seemingly the last person left to carry on the Jigsaw legacy, but when his secret is under threat, he must go on the hunt to eliminate all the loose ends. Or so the studio says . . .
Coming Soon / โปรแกรมหน้า วิญญาณอาฆาต: Thai Horror – 90 mins – Oh, dear! To complete the Halloween pleasantries, I suppose. Not to be outdone by the horror of the US Saw V, the Thais offer up their own version of a bloody scream-fest. This one is about a young projectionist who decides to help a friend illegally film a newly released horror movie, with dire consequences.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, November 6
Quantum of Solace: UK/US Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – 106 mins – Starring Daniel Craig as James Bond and Judy Dench as M. Seeking revenge for the death of his love, secret agent James Bond sets out to stop an environmentalist from taking control of a country's water supply.
Quantum of Solace continues the high octane adventures of James Bond in Casino Royale. Betrayed by Vesper, the woman he loved, 007 fights the urge to make his latest mission personal. Pursuing his determination to uncover the truth, Bond and M interrogate Mr. White who reveals that the organization which blackmailed Vesper is far more complex and dangerous than anyone had imagined.
Forensic intelligence links an MI6 traitor to a bank account in Haiti where a case of mistaken identity introduces Bond to the beautiful but feisty Camille, a woman who has her own vendetta. Camille leads Bond straight to Dominic Greene, a ruthless business man and major force within the mysterious organization, Quantum.
On a mission that leads him to Austria, Italy and South America, Bond discovers that Greene, conspiring to take total control of one of the worlds most important natural resources, is forging a deal with the exiled General Medrano. Using his associates in the organization, and manipulating his powerful contacts within the CIA and the British government, Greene promises to overthrow the existing regime in a Latin American country, giving the General control of the country in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of land, which is however a main source of the South American water supply. In a minefield of treachery, murder, and deceit, Bond allies with old friends in a battle to uncover the truth. As he gets closer to finding the man responsible for the betrayal of Vesper, 007 must keep one step ahead of the CIA, the terrorists and even M, to unravel Greene’s sinister plan and stop Quantum from getting its way.