A Wednesday change this week! In our 4th year! EU Film Festival schedule!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Wednesday, November 5
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Quantum of Solace. Body of Lies. Tropic Thunder. Queens of Langkasuka.
Special Wednesday opening this week.
Here are my comments on the movies playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week and a day beginning Wednesday, November 5, 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 first publication of the complete European Union Film Festival schedule to be held at Vista in Kad Suan Kaew from December 11 to 21; the schedule and the synopses are included.
This is Issue Number 2 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!
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
* 007 – 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. This time James Bond is directed by Marc Forster, who gave us the wonderful The Kite Runner. He was recommended for the job by Daniel Craig, who is a fan of his. Early reviews: generally favorable: 65/65 out of 100.
The last James Bond film, Casino Royale (2006), the 21st Bond film, was a complete restart or reboot or reinvention of the James Bond film series for modern audiences. This film is a continuation of this re-imagining of the series, starting about an hour after the close of Casino Royale.
But the big question is, just where and how did they come up with that strange and forbidding title Quantum of Solace? And what does it mean? Well, first off, 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, and really has no connection. Nevertheless, the phrase “Quantum of Solace “ is defined in the story as "a precise figure defining the comfort/humanity/fellow feeling required between any pair of people for love to survive. If the Quantum of Solace is 0, then love is dead." The title had been under consideration for a Bond film since 1989, and had long been considered unsuitable.
And, seen from another direction, QUANTUM is apparently the name of an evil terrorist organization in the film.
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."
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.
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. 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.
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: 58/59 out of 100. At Vista only, and thanks to Vista for bringing it back.
This film succumbed to the curse of all recent movies revolving around Iraq and the war on terror: It has not done well anywhere; in fact, it’s turning into a huge commercial failure. It’s really too bad, but it seems that moviegoers here, and in America, and around the world, seem to be allergic to matters revolving around Iraq and the war on terror. Films like Rendition and Redacted have foundered at the box office (and never even made it to Chiang Mai), as have movies only tangentially linked to the conflict (like The Kite Runner, set in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan; although that one did run here in Chiang Mai awhile back, thanks again to Vista). It would be a shame if such sentiments kept you from seeing this really quite excellent, thinking-person’s action drama, that unapologetically raises issues concerning terrorism and the fight to combat it.
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.
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.
Just where is Langkasuka?
Here’s a map of its location. The Kingdom of Langkasuka existed from the 2nd to the 14th centuries on the Malay Peninsula, with Ligor as its capital city. Then it mysteriously disappears from written history, replaced by the Pattani Kingdom, leaving only a legendary name. The area of Langkasuka is now called the Thai province of NST, an abbreviation for Nakhon Si Thammarat.
The film was originally called the Queens of Pattani, but because of the touchiness of the separatists’ movement in the southern province, the filmmakers were prevailed upon to rename it, and in fact play down the political implications of the story. It thus, according to the director, became more of a fantasy than he had originally intended, so as not to offend.
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.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, November 13
Sex Drive: US Comedy – 101 mins – With Josh Zuckerman and James Marsden. Eighteen-year-old Ian Lafferty sets out on a cross country drive with his best friends Lance and Felicia in order to lose his virginity to a red-hot babe he met on the Internet. Randy and raucous, Sex Drive follows three friends on the road trip of a lifetime!
Burn After Reading: US Comedy/Crime – 96 mins – I really enjoyed this interesting movie which is scheduled for either November 13 or 20, and 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.
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.