Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's On Starting July 31

The Mummy & company raise a ruckus!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, July 31

by Thomas Ohlson

Best bets: The Dark Knight. Hellboy.

To avoid like the plague: The Strangers.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* 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 right) and Michelle Yeoh. Generally negative reviews: 24/36 out of 100.

The Dark Knight: US Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – 152 mins – I think it’s just a wonderful film, but not everyone agrees; I find it dark, complex, and unforgettable, it succeeds for me not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling and disturbing crime drama. If you enjoy either type of film, don’t miss this one. Christian Bale (right) is excellent as the Hamlet-like Bruce Wayne/Batman. And Heath Ledger gives a performance that is terrifying in its portrayal of an insane mind. I would suggest, however, that the film is not for kids – it’s way too dark for them to appreciate or even understand. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82/80 out of 100.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army: US Action/Fantasy – 119 mins – Again directed by Guillermo del Toro and again starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy, this presents again a dark and difficult fantasy world full of fantastical creatures. It’s a brilliant nightmare, and almost too rich, almost too much to keep up with – one is truly overwhelmed with astonishing visuals and strange stories. I admire this director; his imagination is unbounded. Generally favorable reviews: 78/73 out of 100.

Journey to the Center of the Earth: US Action/Adventure/Fantasy – 92 mins – Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem. During a scientific expedition in Iceland, visionary scientist Trevor Anderson, his 13-year-old nephew and their beautiful local guide, are unexpectedly trapped in a cave from which their only escape is to go deeper and deeper into the depths of the Earth. It’s utterly preposterous, but fun, as the trio travel through never-before-seen worlds, and come face-to-face with surreal creatures – including man-eating plants, giant flying piranha, glow birds, and even dinosaurs. Can’t stand the smart-assed kid – I would have offed him after about his third line of dialogue. Mixed or average reviews, 57/60 out of 100, for the 3D version, which we won’t be seeing here.

21: US Drama – 123 mins – Kevin Spacey is a crafty professor who trains brainy students to cheat by counting cards and then flies them to Las Vegas to raid the blackjack tables. I found it intermittingly interesting, and I do like Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne. It is based on real occurrences in the mid 1990’s when a group of MIT students got together to count cards at Las Vegas on weekends, and did succeed for a while in breaking the bank. For info on the background, visit IMDb here. Mixed or average reviews: 48/51 out of 100.

The Strangers: US Thriller/Horror – 85 mins – Repellent and repulsive. If I were in charge of things, it would be banned. Shows kids how much fun it is to terrorize people, and details how to do it. Why thoughtful, sane people aren’t boycotting it is a mystery. Three malevolent, masked strangers terrorize a couple in their isolated vacation home. Rated R in the US for violence/terror and language. Mixed or average reviews: 47/48 out of 100.

Wor / Woh Mah Ba Maha Sanook / ว้อ หมาบ้ามหาสนุก: Thai Horror/Comedy – The usual comedians and an unusual (and mad) dog.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai on August 7

Mamma Mia!: US/UK/Germany Comedy/ Musical/ Romance – Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth. Relentlessly chick-flick, or rather chick-musical, with insistent Abba music that you will not be able to get out of your mind – be warned! 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. . For Sophie's wedding, Donna has invited her two lifelong best girlfriends, while Sophie has secretly invited three guests of her own: three men from Donna's past, all possibly her father, to the Mediterranean paradise they visited 20 years earlier. Mixed or average reviews: 51/53 out of 100.

Where the Miracle Happens: Thai Drama – Produced by Thai Princess Ubolrat 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”). The Princess also stars in the film as a successful businesswoman who values only material things until she loses her only daughter in a car accident.

The scores given, on a basis of 100, are from two web sources. The first, in bold, is from, and the other is from 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.

Alliance Française schedule

Alliance Schedule Aug 1 & 8

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

Friday, August 1: Adorable Menteuse / Adorable Liar (1961) by Michel Deville – 105 mins – France, Comedy. English subtitles. B&W.

With Marina Vlady, Michel Lonsdale, Macha Meril, Jean-Marc Bory.

Marina Vlady plays the role of an 18-year-old chatter-box who just can’t help lying. She lies to her sister, Sophie, to Sophie’s fiancé Martin, and to all the men she attracts with her womanly charms. But when she falls for an older man, a 40-year old lawyer, her reputation as a liar precedes her and she cannot convince him that she really does love him…

This light romantic comedy has the allure and feel of New Wave cinema but is actually pretty inconsequential besides the works Truffaut and Godard.

The film alternates between youthful exuberance, passionate romance and dark film policier without being convincing or satisfying in either mode. Still, Marina Vlady is delightful as the compulsive liar who gets hoist by her own mendacious petard and the film makes a valid statement about the nature of human relationships, albeit in a tortuous and muddled way.

© James Travers 2000

Friday, August 8: Ce soir ou jamais / Tonight or Never (1961) by Michel Deville – 103 mins – France, Comedy. English subtitles. B&W.

With Claude Rich, Anna Karina, Georges Descrières, Guy Bedos, Françoise Dorléac.

Laurent has to prepare a musical show. That evening, he calls together his collaborators in his apartment under the roofs of Paris who will become the witnesses of his quarrels with his girlfriend. A sophisticated banter in the style of Marivaux or "marivaudage" in the Paris of the early 60s.

It’s an early film by Michel Deville, about a group of young friends (mostly couples), their relationships, their crises. The movie culminates in a long party where games are played and feelings explode. The film is "Nouvelle Vague" at its best. Anna Karina gives a performance greatly admired by some: “She smiles, she dances, she's ecstatic, she's sad, she cries and has nervous breakdowns - all in one. She's a wonderful actress and human being and it's very interesting seeing Anna Karina in a film not directed by Godard.”

Film Space schedule

Film Space Schedule Aug 2 & 9

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or maybe the roof. A small but nice place to view movies. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

During August, Film Space presents a month of animation.

At Film Space on August 2, 7 pm: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) by Mamoru Hosoda – Japan Anime/Animation – 88 mins. Winner: 2007 Japanese Academy Award: Best Animated Film. An unexpected delight and one of the most acclaimed anime features in recent years, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is the first animated adaptation of a 1965 young adult novel that had been an instant sensation in Japan, spawning countless films and TV programs over the ensuing decades. Director Mamoru Hosoda updates the tale to present-day Tokyo, all the while remaining true to the same enchanting story of a girl who learns to time-travel. Due to open in Thailand cinemas on September 18.

We meet Makoto Konno, an outgoing high school girl living a daily life of fun. She's not the best student in the world, but she has two of the best friends in the world - Kousuke, who's the strong, smart dependable type, and Chiaki, who is a fun-loving slacker. They spend their days together goofing off, singing karaoke, and playing catch. But on this particular day, things aren't going so well for her. After failing a pop quiz, nearly setting her cooking class on fire, and enough physical accidents to fill a Buster Keaton movie, she gets killed when the brakes on her bike stop working, sending her directly into the path of an oncoming train.

Except she doesn't die. Rather, she finds herself a few feet away, a few seconds earlier, and more or less, safe. Freaked out, she consults her aunt, who tells her she's simply time-slipped, and that it happens all the time. Soon, she finds she can control her time slipping by taking a flying leap.

At Film Space on August 9, 7 pm: Mind Game (2004) by Masaaki Yuasa – Japan Animation/Adventure/Comedy – 103 mins. This award-winning film is a journey of self-discovery based on Japan's cult underground comic "Mind Game" by Robin Nishi. The story follows Nishi himself through the life experiences that directly inspired the semi-autobiographical "Mind Game" comic. As a college-age loser addicted to porn and aspiring to write seedy adult comics, Nishi sets out to overcome his addiction to perversion in “a tale that is lighthearted yet painful and touching. What starts off as an innocent meeting between old friends quickly turns into a psychedelic extravaganza, filled with violence, sex, love, redemption, and the infinite possibilities of the human mind. Director Masaaki Yuasa rejoices in experimental animation techniques, filling the screen with virtuoso wackiness, mixing in rough lines and storyboards, then inserting photographic touches.”

This is the directorial debut of Masaaki Yuasa.

Bearing little if any relation to the rigidly delineated aesthetics of anime, Mind Game is far closer to the kaleidoscopic psychedelia of Yellow Submarine and the philosophical freak-out Waking Life. It’s free-association storyline, using the most minor narrative fulcrum to spin off in the strangest directions, leaves one no choice but to expect the unexpected—and expect it to be bold, brilliantly realized and bursting with music, color and creative ideas. Employing all manner of animation devices, from scratchy hand drawings and collage to complex CGI, rotoscoping and actual footage of the Japanese media personalities who provided the voices, Mind Game is nothing short of utterly unique and unprecedented in the field of animation.

Rupert Bottenberg

Sunday, July 27, 2008

BEFF5: Experimental Music Videos

Bangkok Experimental Film Festival!

Chiang Mai movies update, Sunday, July 27

by Thomas Ohlson

Experimental Film Festival in its final night

The last showing of the “Bangkok Experimental Film Festival 5 – Chiang Mai” is at 7 pm tonight, Sunday, July 27, at Film Space, CMU Art Museum.

The festival, which began July 13, is a program of experimental films, independent short films, and experimental documentaries presented by the company of the acclaimed Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, in association with the Thai Film Foundation and the independent arts organization Project 304. Most films are from Thailand, but some are from filmmakers all around the world.

Apichatpong, director of the extraordinary film Tropical Malady among many others, was present at the Q&A last night along with the festival curator, David Teh.

The showing is scheduled to begin at 7 pm tonight (Sunday). Always subject to last-minute changes, of course. Held at Film Space, which is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor.

Sunday, July 27

Time subject to change!

7:00-8:00 PM: Experimental Music Videos a 60-minute ThaiIndie collection of new and recent experimental music videos by Thai filmmakers, including works by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Sathit Sattarasart, Duck Unit, and Thunska Pansittivorakul.

Detailed listing

1. Thunska Pansittivorakul (for Soundlanding): Blind Spot, 7.00 mins.

2. Zart Tanchareon (for Soundlanding): Answer, 4.00 mins.

3. D.I.E. (for Goose): The Time We Had, 4.00 mins.

4. Thawatpong Tangsujjapoj (for T-Bone): Massage, 4.00 mins.

5. Pichanan Lauhapornsawan (for Assajan Jukrawan): Body, 5.00 mins.

6. Pathompol Tesprateep (for Assajan Jukrawan): Reverse, 5.00 mins.

7. Chanatip Kunasayeamporn (for Mae Shi): We Do It All the Time, 3.00 mins.

8. Chatchai Ngamsirimongkolchai: Circle, 3.00 mins.

9. Sathit Sattarasart (for Klear): Escape, 4.00 mins.

10. D.I.E. (for Atit Sornsongkram): 28605, 4.00 mins.

11. Chatchai Ngamsirimongkolchai: This Time, 5.00 mins.

12. Haukom & ISE (for Talkless): Tassanajorn, 4.00 mins.

13. Apichatpong Weerasethakul (for Petch Osathanukrao): Because (2 versions), 8.00 mins.

Admission is free to all screenings.