Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's On starting August 28

Ananda lies in a coffin, Meryl Streep dances!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, August 28

by Thomas Ohlson

Best bets: WALL•E. Mamma Mia!

To avoid like the plague: Death Race.

Here is my list of movies currently playing at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, August 28, 2008. This is Issue Number 44 of Volume 3 of these listings.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* 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 homeless kids – who, as friends will do, drug him and mug him.

* Boys Over Flowers: 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 of “rich, gorgeous guys.” 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 – Thai superstar Ananda Everingham as a claustrophobic architect who nevertheless participates in obscure coffin rituals which are a part of the colorful traditional Thai belief systems.

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.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: US/Germany/Canada Action /Adventure /Fantasy – 114 mins – 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 seems to be quite popular here. Generally negative reviews: 31/37 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 on Thursday, September 4

Bangkok Dangerous: US Action/Drama – Directors 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 murders. During the course of his jobs, the triggerman falls in love with a pretty local girl while also forming a friendly bond with his young errand boy.

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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

Friday, August 29: Serko (2006) by Joël Farges – 80 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.

With Jacques Gamblin, Alexei Chadov, Marina Kim.

A captivating, exquisitely lensed widescreen tale inspired by a true incident, Serko follows a young Cossack as he rides his pony-sized horse 4,000 miles from southern Siberia to St. Petersburg, ca. 1889, to give the czar a polite piece of his mind. Veteran director Joel Farges imbues this tale with effortless visual sweep and salutary emotion. A genuine charmer for kids on up.

The year is 1889, and the local bad guys, malevolent followers of a corrupt governor, offer a handful of guns and a few sacks of flour to the indigenous Evenk tribe of Siberia for their herd of special horses. They believe the horses will come in handy as grub for the workers on the Trans-Siberian railway. When our hero, a teenage Cossack, Dimitri, sees a murderous henchman gun down his Evenk friend in cold blood, he soon makes it his mission to ensure that no further harm comes to the peaceful tribe. Despite the fact that the teenager has never ventured beyond the borders of the small village in which he was born, Dimitri’s drive to earn the respect of his distant father prompts the brave youngster to rechristen his fallen friend's horse “Serko” and bring the matter to the czar's attention, who has made a promise to protect the indigenous population of Siberia. Over the course of the next 193 days, Dimitri finds his noble quest growing increasingly arduous as the fearful governor sets out to insure that his message never reaches the powerful monarch.

Dimitri has adventures along the way, living off the land – be it tundra, ice or snow – and, in his headlong innocence, making exceptional time. (Although the real historical journey was prompted by religious faith rather than social ecology, his feat – riding from Blagovechtchensk to St. Petersburg in 193 days using a single mount – has never been equaled.)

Friday, September 5: Un homme et une femme / A Man and a Woman (1966) by Claude Lelouch – 125 mins – France, Drama/ Romance. In French with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 64 out of 100.

With Jean-Louis Trintignant, Anouk Aimée, Pierre Barouh, Valérie Lagrange, Simone Paris, Paul Le Person, Henri Chemin.

Jean-Louis Duroc and Anne Gauthier meet incidentally at the boarding school where they visit their children each weekend. He visits his son, she her daughter. She misses her train and he offers her a ride back to Paris in his car. Slowly and cautiously we learn about them as they learn about one another. We learn about their jobs, their former spouses, and other details of their lives that have the movie viewer hoping this man and woman can become a couple.”

Alliance description

Review by Christopher Null,

French writer/director Claude Lelouch remains a prolific artist (he even made a 9/11 movie), but it's one of his first films, made almost 40 years ago, for which he remains best known.

A Man and a Woman was France's definitive love story for a decade, the Love Story of its generation and a thoroughly French example of its take on romance. Laconic, wandering, and bordering on hopeless, it's easy to see why the film has more fans among the heartbroken than the lovey-dovey.

Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant play the titular characters, both young widows with complicated lives: He's a race car driver, she's got kids. Okay, they're complicated for French lives, anyway.

What follows their chance meeting is a series of abortive dates, daydreams, and endless car races. Lelouch jumps between color and black & white willy-nilly. He flashes back, even to a musical number. In the end, he won a Best Foreign Film Oscar.

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

During August, a month of animation. September, a month of Asian films.

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.

At Film Space on August 30, 7 pm: The Simpsons Movie (2007) by David Silverman – US Animation – 87 mins. This played on the major screens here in Chiang Mai one year ago, and at the time I had this to say about it:

A strange movie. I can’t really claim an extensive acquaintanceship with the Simpsons, nor an affinity with them. I never really watched them on TV, and I can’t say I’m particularly fond of them. I’m afraid I’m confused by the mass appeal of the series. I did laugh watching this movie, quite a number of times, and for the rest, I found it generally amusing overall and the writing quite clever. I enjoyed its irreverent satire. But it left me rather cold and unmoved. Many say it is an accurate reflection of the American family; if so, I think America is facing even greater problems than I thought. The gentle, good-natured acceptance of the cruelties the father and son of this family inflict upon each other is, to me, outrageous. In this representative family, supposedly happy and functioning, I find many amazingly ugly undercurrents, all of which seem celebrated by the movie. An abusive father and an abusive son, played for laughs. Some have said that the Simpsons are a definitive portrait of the dysfunctional American family - stuck with each other and, deep down, OK with it. I don’t like that point of view.

Also, the animation is crude and primitive, to my way of thinking. However, I can see that if you’re one of the millions who have watched a sizable percentage of the 400 TV episodes over the18 years the Simpsons have been on television, then this would be a fully enjoyable experience for you. For you, a tip: you will want to sit all the way through the ending credits for the additional fun along the way. Generally favorable reviews: 80/75 out of 100.

At Film Space on September 6, 7 pm: The Scent of Green Papaya / Mùi đu đ xanh (1993) by Trần Anh Hùng – France/Vietnam Drama – 104 mins. In Vietnamese, with English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81 out of 100.

An award-winning film, nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1994. This placid but visually intoxicating tone poem explores the interior life of a Vietnamese household in the 1950s, as seen through the eyes of a young servant girl. Although set in Vietnam, the film was shot entirely on a soundstage in Boulogne, France. This is Trần Anh Hùng's first feature film and stars his wife, Trần Nữ Yên Khê. He later went on to direct Cyclo and Vertical Ray of the Sun, also starring his wife, and these three films comprise what many consider now to be his "Vietnam trilogy."

Although Trần Anh Hùng was born in 1962 in Đà Nẵng, Central Vietnam, he emigrated to France when he was 12 following the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Trần has long been considered at the forefront of the wave of acclaimed overseas Vietnamese cinema in the past two decades. His films have received international notoriety and acclaim, and until recently have all been varied meditations on life in Vietnam.

Trần Anh Hùng has said about his film,

"The scent of green papaya is a personal childhood memory. Everyone [in Vietnam] knew the gestures associated with the preparation of the papaya and, since the houses weren't soundproofed, you often heard it being prepared in the house next door. You knew the sound because the papaya is hollow and when you hit it (with a knife), it makes a very characteristic noise. The papaya was really a part of everyday Vietnamese life. Since the green papaya was a vegetable prepared by women, it immediately becomes a symbol of women's work."

James Berardinelli writes,

What The Scent of Green Papaya does so well is to show the everyday life of a culture that has been bombed into history. This is the kind of motion picture that could easily become repetitive and boring, because so little happens. But, by involving the audience in the everyday minutiae of Vietnamese life, Trần Anh Hùng holds the viewers' interest. The Scent of Green Papaya is made all the more enchanting by its simplicity.”

Roger Ebert writes,

Here is a film so placid and filled with sweetness that watching it is like listening to soothing music. . . . I have seen The Scent of Green Papaya three times now - the first time in May 1993 at Cannes, where it was named the best film by a first-time director. It is a placid, interior, contemplative film - not plot-driven, but centered on the growth of the young woman. As such, you might think it would seem "slower" on later viewings, but I found that the opposite was true: As I understood better what the movie was, I appreciated it more, because like a piece of music it was made of subtleties that only grew deeper through familiarity. This is a film to cherish.”