Thursday, November 13, 2008

What On starting November 13

Period of mourning in effect! Alliance Française and Film Space cancel showings this week!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, November 13

by Thomas Ohlson

Best Bets: Quantum of Solace. Body of Lies. Tropic Thunder. Queens of Langkasuka.

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, November 13, 2008. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks. And we have the complete European Union Film Festival schedule to be held at Vista in Kad Suan Kaew from December 11 to 21.

This is Issue Number 3 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!

There may be some cancellations of showings this weekend due to the three days of national mourning set by the government during the cremation ceremony for Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana from November 14 to 16. The government has asked everyone to dress in black, and entertainment venues have been asked to cease entertainment activities during this period. Already the Alliance Française has cancelled its showing on November 14: Diva will be shown instead on December 12. And Film Space has moved this week’s showing of The Eighth Day to next Saturday, doubling up with the scheduled showing of Rain Man.

Body of Lies which was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and which I like very much, has been resurrected and is playing a regular engagement at Vista. It’s an exciting spy movie as dark as night and as ruthless and vile as Abu Ghraib. Smart and tightly drawn, it has a throat-gripping urgency, with some serious insights. If you like an action movie with some thought behind it, you should see it.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Painted Skin: China (Hong Kong S.A.R.) Action/ Fantasy – 103 mins – An action-thriller centered on a vampire-like woman who eats the skins and hearts of her lovers. The story is set in late Yuen Dynasty, at the time when demons and devils roam free. This demon constantly needs the heart and skin of man to maintain her beauty. The film is adapted from the ancient novel "Liaozhai Zhiyi," or "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio," written by Pu Songling during the Qing Dynasty.

This film is Thai dubbed only/No English subtitles.

IMDb viewer: Make no mistake about it – this is a love story of many shades, with the ultimate glorification of "love conquers all.” To introduce this movie as the latest adaptation from the famous Chinese literature ghost story could be misleading. The movie in fact goes to great length to avoid being scary. As director Gordon Chan explains in an interview: "this is a story of romance where six characters speak for themselves about love.” The movie does indeed adapt the ghost story, but only as an anchor for the love stories. Also, the movie talks about "monsters" and not "ghosts" in order to get through the movie censor authority of the mainland of China, for whom “ghost” is an absolute no-no but “monsters” are tolerated. While this distinction hardly seems to matter to the audience, it means a potential additional market of hundreds of millions to the producers.

007 – Quantum of Solace: UK/US Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – 106 mins – Starring Daniel Craig as James Bond and Judy Dench as M. Really a continuation of the 2006 Casino Royale, which was a reinvention of the James Bond film series for present-day audiences. Here, with a different director, I found the undertaking greatly diminished in charm and style and elegance, with the action sequences more mindless and muddled, and the plot vastly more convoluted and confusing. But there’s much to still like if you’re a fan of Bond films. As more reviews have come in, the overall Metacritic/Rotten Tomatoes score has gone down from “Generally favorable” to “Mixed or average” reviews: 57/54 out of 100.

Just where and how did they come up with that strange and forbidding title Quantum of Solace? And what does it mean? It’s the name of a short story written by 007’s creator Ian Fleming, first published in the book "For Your Eyes Only” in 1960. However, this movie has none of the characters of the story, except for Bond, who is really a minor character – in fact, the person to whom the story is told. In the Bahamas James Bond attends a dull dinner party at the Governor’s Mansion, where the elderly governor tells him a story about a man who married an air hostess. The marriage started well but soon the wife began a torrid and very public affair with the son of a wealthy island family. It is at this point that the governor explains his theory: the quantum of solace, he says, is a precise figure defining the comfort, humanity, and fellow feeling required between two people for love to survive. If the quantum of solace is nil, then love is dead. Thus it’s simply a precise mathematical measurement of love. The title had been under consideration for a Bond film since 1989, and had long been considered unsuitable.

And, Quantum is the name of the film’s evil terrorist organization.

To add to the legend, Daniel Craig stated in an interview that he was involved in making the decision for the title, and admitted that "in the great tradition of Bond movies, the film's title is often meaningless."

Tropic Thunder: US Comedy/War – 107 mins – Outrageous! 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. 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. Directed by Ben Stiller. Generally favorable reviews: 71/71 out of 100.

Body of Lies: US Action/Drama/Thriller – 128 mins – Directed by Ridley Scott, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and with a powerful performance by Mark Strong as the Jordanian intelligence leader Hani Salam. I like this film very much: a spy movie with some thinking behind it, about a CIA operative who attempts to infiltrate the network of a major terrorist leader operating out of Jordan. Rated R in the US for strong violence including some torture (though it appears to me a lot of this has been clipped by Thai censors), and for language throughout. Mixed or average reviews: 58/58 out of 100. At Vista only, and thanks to Vista for bringing it back.

Queens of Langkasuka / Peun yai jom sa-lud / ปืนใหญ่จอมสลัด: Thai Drama/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ History – 140 mins –

Thai Drama/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ History – For me, it’s an entertaining Thai blockbuster – big stars, loads of special effects, lavish costumes, and an exotic seaborne setting. Nonzee Nimibutr's 200-million-baht historical action-fantasy, more than three years in the making, has been less than enthusiastically received in some quarters.

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: 31/35 out of 100.

Coming Soon / Program Nah / โปรแกรมหน้า วิญญาณอาฆาต: Thai Horror – 90 mins – The Thais offer up their own version of a bloody Halloween 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 20

Traitor: US Drama/Thriller – 114 mins – With Don Cheadle. Another serious look at the world of moral uncertainty amid the war on terror. I am a lot more fond of this movie than most reviewers. I think Don Cheadle gives another outstanding performance in this film – really a great person to watch. And I found the story (by Steve Martin – yes, him) very engrossing. Straight arrow FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) heads up the investigation into a dangerous international conspiracy, and all clues seem to lead back to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn (Cheadle). A mysterious figure with a web of connections to terrorist organizations, Horn has a knack for emerging on the scene just as a major operation goes down. The inter-agency task force looking into the case links Horn to a prison break in Yemen, a bombing in Nice and a raid in London, but a tangle of contradictory evidence emerges, forcing Clayton to question whether his quarry is a disaffected former military operative – or something far more complicated. Obsessed with discovering the truth, Clayton tracks Horn across the globe as the elusive ex-soldier burrows deeper and deeper into a world of shadows and intrigue. Mixed or average reviews: 60/60 out of 100. I suggest you give it a try.

Burn After Reading: US Comedy/Crime – 96 mins – I really enjoyed this interesting movie which stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, and John Malkovich (the whole team of serious anti-government, anti-CIA rabble-rousers) in another expose of dirty dealing and incompetence in high places. But this time it's a comedy! Clooney, for example, seems to have a hobby of building homemade sex toys in his basement. I found it very funny indeed. With Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins. Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen. Generally favorable reviews: 63/60 out of 100.

Teeth: US Comedy/ Horror – 94 mins – Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein (son of Pop artist Roy), with Jess Weixler and John Hensley. Dawn, a high school student, works hard at suppressing her budding sexuality by being the local chastity group's most active participant. A stranger to her own body, innocent Dawn discovers she has a toothed vagina when she becomes the object of violence. As she struggles to understand her anatomical uniqueness, Dawn experiences both the pitfalls and the power of being a living example of the vagina dentata myth. More enjoyable than I thought it would be, it is still pretty sick and unpleasant, and with the number of appendages that eventually litter the ground, I think Teeth bites off more than it can chew. Mixed or average reviews: 57/64 out of 100.

Sex Drive: US Comedy – 101 mins – With Josh Zuckerman and James Marsden. An eighteen-year-old sets out on a cross country drive with his best friends determined to lose his virginity to a red-hot babe he met on the Internet. Randy and raucous. Mixed or average reviews: 49/52 out of 100.

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