Thursday, April 2, 2009

What's On starting April 2

Car crashes replace Oscar films!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, April 2

by Thomas Ohlson

Best Bets: [none].

Oscar season is over at Major Cineplex! On to car crashes and katoeys. I hope you enjoyed while you could Revolutionary Road, The Reader, The Wrestler, and Milk. Many thanks to Major Cineplex for bringing these films to Chiang Mai.

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 beginning Thursday, April 2, 2009. 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 23 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Fast & Furious 4: US, Action – 107 mins – Vin Diesel and Paul Walker re-team for the ultimate chapter of this film franchise built on speed and cars, which started in 2001 with The Fast and the Furious, which became an unexpected hit. Although this is the fourth of the series, time-wise it fits in between the second and the third films, and is thus not a sequel and not a prequel but (and this is a new word for you, thought up by some ad agency somewhere) an interquel. It’s almost entirely about car races and car crashes. Look, there are some who like that! Early reviews are generally negative: 30/40 out of 100.

Hollywood & Fine: Acting isn't really the point of Fast & Furious. Indeed, this cast can barely act interested.

Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert: I admire the craft involved, but the movie leaves me profoundly indifferent. After three earlier movies in the series, which have been transmuted into video games, why do we need a fourth one? Oh. I just answered my own question.

* The Shinjuku Incident / Xin Su shi jian: China, Action/ Drama – 120 mins – Featuring Jackie Chan in a dramatic rather than a fighting mode. This troubled project has been in the planning stages for almost 10 years according to director Derek Yee. And now it seems the film will not be exhibited in mainland China at all, due to censorship concerns over the portrayal of Chinese living abroad, which will really hurt the financial prospects for this film, China being Chan’s biggest market. But it seems it will be shown in Japan, despite an overwhelmingly negative portrayal of the Japanese. Shown here in a Thai-dubbed version only, without English subtitles.

* Sassy Players / Taew Nak Te Teen Rabert / แต๋วเตะตีนระเบิด: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 90 mins – A gay teen soccer comedy in the vein of “Satree Lek" (Iron Ladies), the internationally popular comedy about a gay and transgender men's volleyball team. There’s a little bit of everything in the film – something for everyone. It’s fun, if your proclivities lie in this direction. Directed by Poj Arnon (Bangkok Love Story).

A girl's school decides it wants to field a team to contest national secondary school football championships, and calls for applications from young men. It ends up with 16 applicants, seven of whom are katoey - or as they tell their coach, not 'real' men at all. Can football players of the third gender prove their mettle on the pitch? See the movie to find out . . .

Knowing: Australia/ US, Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 130 mins – Delightful! And a lot of fun. Particularly if you like Nicolas Cage. A teacher opens a time capsule that has been dug up at his son's elementary school; in it are some chilling predictions – some that have already occurred and others that are about to – that lead him to believe his family plays a role in the events that are about to unfold. Starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Alex Proyas (I, Robot). Mixed or average reviews: 41/42 out of 100.

Roger Ebert: Knowing is among the best science-fiction films I've seen – frightening, suspenseful, and intelligent and, when it needs to be, rather awesome. The plot involves the most fundamental of all philosophical debates: Is the universe deterministic or random? Is everything in some way preordained or does it happen by chance? If that questions sounds too abstract, wait until you see this film, which poses it in stark terms: What if we could know in advance when the Earth will end?

Los Angeles Times, Betsy Sharkey: Whatever else Proyas has done in Knowing, he has created an ending that is sure to divide audiences into camps of love it or hate it, deeming its message either hopeful or hopelessly heavy-handed. For me, it doesn't quite work; still I'm glad he took the risk.

San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Hartlaub: If you see only one bad movie this year, definitely make it Knowing. The first major disappointment from director Alex Proyas is a disaster movie, a horror picture, a "Da Vinci Code"-style thriller and an end-of-days religious film all at once.

Khan Kluay 2 / ก้านกล้วย 2: Thai, Animation/ Adventure – 90 mins – Khan Kluay, the legendary elephant, is back in action in this sequel to the animated movie Khan Kluay. Set after the victory at Ayuthaya against the invasion of the powerful Burmese Empire, when Khan Kluay is appointed King Naresuan's royal elephant.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, April 9

Race to Witch Mountain: US, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 98 mins – A perfectly acceptable action/ adventure film for children (mostly) with all the standard chills and thrills. Well done of its type, and the ex-Rock Dwayne Johnson is (mostly) charming as a Las Vegas cabbie who enlists the help of a UFO expert to protect two children with paranormal powers from the clutches of an organization that wants to use the kids for their nefarious plans.

Roger Ebert: Innocuous family entertainment.

Variety: Strikes a deft balance of chase-movie suspense and wisecracking humor, with a few slam-bang action setpieces that would shame the makers of more allegedly grown-up genre fare.

Monsters vs Aliens: US, Animated/ Action – An animated feature that has gotten what has to be called rave reviews from some reviewers.

The Charlotte Observer, Lawrence Toppman: The movie may best be appreciated by people who know the references. All five monsters come from low-budget science fiction films of the 1950s. The towering Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon) was inspired by “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.” The missing link, silent in “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” has Will Arnett's voice here. Roaring, wordless Insectosaurus is a “Godzilla” slug magnified by radiation, while Bob the Blob (Seth Rogen) comes from – well, “The Blob.” Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) has a counterpart in “The Fly,” where another scientist acquires the characteristics of an insect after a failed experiment.

Rahtree Reborn / บุปผาราตรี 3.1: Thai, Horror/ Romance – 90 mins – Starring Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer, in a new career move, and Cherman Boonyasak, who played his putative sister in that film. It’s a sequel to Yuthalert Sipapak’s famous horror films Bup Pha Rahtree and Rahtree Returns, set in the same apartment where the haunting story has been told before. Surrounded by the tranquility of this apartment, a horrible spirit in room 609 is lurking, soon to be awakened. This time the terrors are tripled. Directed again by Yuthlert Sippapak. Note the barber chair. Shades of Sweeney Todd, again!

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