A new kind of spy movie as dark as night!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, October 9
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Body of Lies. I'm Not There [at Film Space].
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, October 9, 2008. Attached is the same list in Word format. 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 50 of Volume 3 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Body of Lies: US Drama – Directed by Ridley Scott, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. About a CIA operative who attempts to infiltrate the network of a major terrorist leader operating out of Jordan. Based on a 2007 novel by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.
Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon: Takes a rather broad look at a wide range of American involvement in the Middle East and our attitude and treatment of the people living there and working for the United States, in this case the CIA. It does a fantastic job of drawing the distinction between the guys doing the work (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the guys pulling the trigger from their comfy office chairs or perhaps a kids' soccer game (Russell Crowe). A controlled thriller that looks fantastic and moves at a quick clip.
David Denby, The New Yorker: the movie is smart and tightly drawn; it has a throat-gripping urgency and some serious insights.
Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter: A new kind of spy movie as dark as night and as ruthless and vile as Abu Ghraib.
If Ridley Scott gave us a new kind of war movie with Black Hawk Down, where an army unit functioning in total chaos in a hostile city became a collective protagonist, he now engineers a new kind of spy thriller in Body of Lies.
Here is a landscape of deserved paranoia and horrific violence, of countless life-or-death scenarios, total distrust of enemies and allies alike, and open contempt for anything American -- again not undeserved. It may not be as much fun as old spy movies starring Cary Grant . . . but it feels all too accurate.
To be sure, the film retains familiar genre elements: It has double crosses and plot twists, a romance -- an improbable one -- chases, gunfights and last-minute rescues. But the fiction is rooted in a Middle Eastern reality that is always grim and unsettling. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe will certainly bring out their admirers, but how the action-thriller crowd will react to such a disturbing environment is a tough call.
William Monahan's tough-minded screenplay, based on a novel by journalist David Ignatius, who has covered the CIA and Middle East, sees no action or impulse as heroic. It acknowledges bravery, but this bravery is sometimes foolish and its goals often murky and counterproductive.
DiCaprio's Roger Ferris is the angry and often frantic man on the ground in the war on terror in Iraq and Jordan. Back in the U.S., Crowe's arrogant CIA veteran Ed Hoffman hovers over laptops and tracks ground movements half a world away via spy satellites. Hoffman, who would sacrifice his mother to single-handedly win the war on terror, easily earns Ferris' enmity, but Ferris needs his eyes and strategies.
In trying to flush a ruthless terrorist (Alon Aboutboul) out of hiding, the uneasy duo encounters a silky and charismatic head of Jordanian intelligence (British actor Mark Strong), an often bewildered local guide (Oscar Isaac), a computer whiz (Simon McBurney), a hapless pawn (Ali Suliman) and a nurse (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani).
. . . Scott pushes the film at breakneck speed. He switches points of view rapidly from Ferris in treacherous terrain to Hoffman multitasking on the phone while dealing with his family and suburban life to overhead camera angles of the Predator tracking system. Urgency fills the characters' every waking moment. Rules of the day are established with primacy given to swift execution by a colleague if anyone is likely to fall into enemy hands and suffer horrifying torture.
What motivates Ferris is never clear, and this is the film's greatest weakness. With Hoffman running operations behind his back, he has no safety net, even an illusory one. He is a little too much of a white knight in this dark world, but DiCaprio gives the role plenty of brio, while Crowe -- who reportedly gained 50 pounds to play the morally and physically slovenly office spook -- is agreeably obnoxious.
Rated R in the US for strong violence including some torture, and for language throughout. Early reviews: Mixed or average: 57/57 out of 100.
* 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 “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.
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.
Disaster Movie: US Comedy – Returning to their seemingly bottomless well of flatulence humor, racial stereotypes, and stale pop culture gags, Friedberg and Seltzer have produced what is arguably their worst “Movie” yet. Seldom has a film been more appropriately titled. Reviews: Extreme dislike or disgust: 15/17 out of 100.
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 (The Holy Man) was the No. 1 Thai film at the box office in 2005, earning 141 million baht, 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 (shown at left), one of the Thai stars in the ill-advised and poorly-received rock version of the Ramakien that played Lincoln Center in New York in the summer of 2006. You can check out a sample of Joey Boy’s rap style at:
The cast is fleshed out by the usual contingent of Thai TV comedians. No English subtitles at Vista.
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.
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. Vista has a Thai-dubbed version as well.
You Don't Mess with the Zohan: US Action/Comedy – 113 mins – Starring Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, and Rob Schneider. Zohan is an Israeli commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream: becoming a hairstylist in New York. It’s an Adam Sandler comedy, and if you like his kind of low and crass comedy, you should like this one well enough. Here he plays the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for laughs. I laughed. A lot. And cringed. A lot. Mixed or average reviews: 54/53 out of 100.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, October 16
Max Payne: US Action/Thriller – 125 mins – Starring Mark Wahlberg. Based on a 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 and partner. Hell-bent on revenge, his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmare journey into a dark underworld. “As the mystery deepens, Max (Wahlberg) is forced to battle enemies beyond the natural world and face an unthinkable betrayal,” or so says the studio.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, October 23
Beverly Hills Chihuahua: US Comedy – With the voices of Drew Barrymore and Salma Hayek. In this Disney comedy, a pampered Beverly Hills Chihuahua named Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore) finds herself accidentally lost in the mean streets of Mexico without a day spa or Rodeo Drive boutique anywhere in sight. Now alone for the first time in her spoiled life, she must rely on some unexpected new friends – including a street-hardened German Shepherd named Delgado (voice of Andy Garcia) and an amorous pup named Papi (voice of George Lopez) – to lend her a paw and help her to find her inner strength on their incredible journey back home. This one actually looks quite delightful, to gauge by the previews.
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 his two faces in this 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.
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.
Rated R in the US for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content, and drug material. Generally favorable reviews: 71/72 out of 100.
- Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance is nearly on par with what Heath Ledger did as the Joker... -- Cinema Blend
Tropic Thunder Co-Star Praises Robert Downey, Jr.
Tropic Thunder actor Brandon T. Jackson knows that co-star Robert Downey Jr. might receive some criticism from his unusual role in the comedy. But Jackson has a message to those that have a problem with the Caucasian Downey painting his face black for most of the movie.
"To be honest, he played a black dude better than anybody I've seen!" Jackson told People Magazine about Downey's performance in the Ben Stiller-directed film.
Jackson did admit to having initial hesitations about Downey's part. In the movie, Downey portrays Kirk Lazarus, an Academy Award-winning actor that's cast in the most expensive Vietnam war film ever.
However, Lazarus's character, Sgt. Osiris, was originally written as an African-American. So Lazarus dyes his skin to play the role.
"When I first read the script, I was like: What? Black face? But when I saw him [act] he, like, became a black man," Jackson said. ""It was weird on the set because he would keep going with the character. He's a method actor."