Vista poster announces Slumdog Millionaire!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, April 16
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: [None]
Here are my comments on the films playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, April 16, 2009. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks.
Vista has a poster up announcing the showing of this year’s Oscar best picture Slumdog Millionaire, but they cannot confirm yet a date. It’s been showing at only one theater in Thailand for six weeks now, the good old Apex (Scala) in Bangkok, and has been doing, as you might imagine, very good business. I think this would be quite a coup for Vista. Would that Vista would bring all of the Apex showings up here – they (along with House RCA) tend to show the most interesting and challenging current films available in Thailand, week after week.
Two interesting films promised for this week didn’t show up: The International, a Clive Owen thriller about bank shenanigans in high places; and the Russell Crowe and all-star-cast crime drama State of Play, now rescheduled for June.
This is Issue Number 25 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Crank: High Voltage: US, Action – 96 mins – The indestructible hopped-up hitman Chev Chelios is played to the hilt once again by Jason Statham, picking up where the first film left off – except this time, Chelios is chasing a Chinese gangster who hijacked his heart and substituted it with a mechanical one that needs to be jolted regularly with an electric charge to stay pumping. With David Carradine. Rated R in the US for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity, and pervasive language.
Rotten Tomatoes: For those who thought there couldn't possibly be a sequel to Crank, this adrenaline-fueled film marks a return for the character of Chev Chelios (Jason Statham). In Crank: High Voltage, Chelios tears through Los Angeles as he searches for the Chinese criminal who has possession of his heart. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are back in the directors' chairs, and Amy Smart, Dwight Yoakam, and Efren Ramirez revisit their roles from the original film.
Knowing: Australia/ US,Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 130 mins – Delightful! And a lot of fun, in a gloomy sort of way. 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.
SmartCine: “What do you believe?” Does everything happen for a reason? Is there a purpose or is it completely accidental or coincidental? MIT Professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) seemed to believe that everything is just coincidence and that there is no higher, driving purpose. That is until he ran into a 50 year old sheet of paper filled with numbers retrieved by his son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) from the opening of his school’s 1959 time capsule. After finding the meaning of the code, his beliefs along with his faithlessness began to shift. Whatever you believe one thing is for sure; life is fragile and can end at any given moment. That is a somber reality that this movie strongly points out and it adds to the dreariness of this film. This movie is eerie, mysterious, chilling, penetrating, and depressing. There are religious undertones hinted upon throughout which gave the movie a little more edge. But this is not a movie for the weak-hearted. I’ve been feeling kind of paranoid after watching it. If it was able to do that to me, it’s got to be good.
The best aspects of this film are the special effects and the cinematography in general. From the awesome satellite type images towards the beginning of the movie of the U.S. east coast which slowly zoomed in towards Boston, to the jaw-dropping disaster scenes, the special effects work for this movie is top notch. It made the movie that much more realistic and thus that much gloomier. The visuals cut in through your eyes and tore straight to your heart. The cinematography also had the same effect. It really made this movie more of a mystery thriller than a dramatic thriller. There were some moments that I would even consider scary. This is not just another typical Nike Cage action flick. This is more along the lines of a Day After Tomorrow or even more like a Day the Earth Stood Still. There is plenty of hopelessness and inevitability which will keep you grounded. So if this movie is so somber, why bother to see it? It is a really good production with a very interesting storyline that doesn’t exactly end in total catastrophe. There is a light of hope in the midst of this darkness. Many of you might be turned off by the way this movie is resolved, but I didn’t mind it at all. One of the weaker aspects of this film, however, is the script. It didn’t seem to keep up with the intensity of the story. The acting on the other hand was pretty good. Nick gave a standard performance, nothing spectacular but good enough for the context. Chandler was borderline freaky with his role which gave it more mystery. His was arguably the best performance. Rose Byrne plays Diana Wayland, the daughter of the author of the sheet of numbers. Like Nick, there was nothing spectacular about her performance but good enough for the context. One thing that amazed me is the resemblance between her and Lara Robinson who plays Diana’s mother Lucinda back in 1959. Lara was sharp with her brief but effective role. She reminded me of the girl from The Ring . . . freaky. Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City, I, Robot) has done another mesmerizing piece of work. He co-wrote, co-produced, and directed.
Khan Kluay 2 /ก้านกล้วย2: Thai, Animation/ Adventure– 90 mins –Khan Kluay, the legendary elephant, is back in action in thissuperb sequel to the animated movie Khan Kluay.Brilliant, beautiful animation that looks 3D though really only 2D, with an engrossing story, set after the victory at Ayuthaya against the invasion of the powerful Burmese Empire, when Khan Kluay is appointed King Naresuan's royal elephant. I especially like the animators’ skill in the opening sequences, as the camera swoops through forests and jungles, using effective multi-plane techniques. The filmmakers seem much more assured than in the first Khan Kluay, and their skills are now really quite advanced. I was particularly struck by the beautiful final images while Khan Kluay was “dead” awaiting his children to return him to life. There are some truly scary parts involving death and destruction. But what can you do? When a village gets sacked and pillaged, it’s difficult to make it look pretty.
Bangkok Post, Kong Rithdee: Khan Kluay, a Thai feature-length 3D animation, splashed brilliant colors on the big screen with the intent of making us proud. And while our chests are certainly swelled with the pride and joy that Thai artists have produced an animation of startling technical achievement - one that's breathtakingly close to the flag-bearers like Pixar - the movie also force-feeds us Thais with the pride deeply associated with a primitive brand of patriotism. Considering that the film is supposed to be a children's treat, the 150-million-baht Khan Kluay presents a pretty yet profoundly odd package, especially when the young elephant of the title receives a pep-talk on how he should be proud to sacrifice his life for his country by battling, who else, the invading Burmese.
The sharp note of jingoism, when the cerulean pachyderm becomes the royal steed of King Naresuan in his historic elephant duel against Phra Maha Uparacha of the Burmese army, renders its final 20 minutes unusually intense for a kid-oriented cartoon. In the traditions of Disney or Pixar animations, the heroes, animal or men, will not be directly responsible for the deaths of the bad-guys (a lot of blood-thirsty creatures die in The Lion King, but Simba didn't actually maul them to death). So there's something disturbing when Khan Kluay performs his final act of bravery against the satanic, mammoth-like Burmese elephant - and we're told that in war, even animals have no choice but to kill for their countries.
The moody tone of the final act is a contrast to the jolly humor of the film's first hour, when both children and adults will find it difficult not to fall in love with the orphaned, plump, sky-blue, cuddlier-than-Dumbo Khan Kluay (voiced by Anyarit Pitaktikul and later Puri Hiranyapruek). Separated from his herd, Khan Kluay wanders the forest and bumps into a pink girl-elephant Chaba Kaew (voiced by Nawarat Techaratanaprasert). After we learn that even elephants are capable of puppy love, Chaba Kaew brings Khan Kluay to the training camp of Uncle Mahout, who endures the bullying of Burmese marauders and whose duty is to supply war elephants to the palace upon request.
The Shinjuku Incident /Xin Su shi jian / 新宿事件: China, Action/ Drama– 120 mins – Featuring Jackie Chan in a dramatic rather than a fighting mode, and this long-awaited collaboration with director Derek Yee apparently turns out to be a well-done study of the problems faced by Chinese immigrants in Japan in the early 1990s. It’s rather a shame, though: Shown here in a Thai-dubbed version only, without English subtitles.
The story: In the early 1990s, an honest tractor mechanic from China nicknamed Steelhead (Jackie Chan) enters Japan illegally, in search of his girlfriend Xiu Xiu (Xu Jinglei). Steelhead and his friend, Jie (Daniel Wu) meet in the busy Shinjuku district of Tokyo and take manual laboring jobs to earn money. When Steelhead finds out that Xiu Xiu has married a Japanese Yakuza leader named Eguchi (Kato Masaya), he decides to remain in Japan. To obtain citizenship, and after failing to find a way to make an honest living,he agrees to work for Eguchi as a killer, and he quickly becomes used to the power. Soon he has become embroiled so deeply in the ways of the yakuza that there is no turning back.
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.Mixed or average reviews: 52/51 out of 100.
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/ Sci-Fi – 94 mins – An animated feature that has gotten what has to be called rave reviews from a number of reviewers, and some others highly critical. I found it half imaginative and amusing, half irritating – the really irritating part being Reese Witherspoon’s shrill voice, and her character, the creepy All-American-cheery-housewife-but-liberated-woman type. The bug is more fun. Mixed or average reviews: 56/59 out of 100.
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.
Los Angeles Times Betsy Sharkey:"Nice" is the adjective that seems to surface most in trying to pin down the film's most salient quality, which means that while the film is enjoyable enough, it is unlikely to become a classic for us, or a Shreksort of franchise.
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 . . .
Fast & Furious 4: US,Action – 107 mins – Vin Diesel and Paul Walkerre-team for the ultimate chapter of this film franchise built on speed and cars, which started in 2001 with the hugely popular The Fast and the Furious. Although this is the fourth of the series, time-wise it fits in between the second and the third films. It’s almost entirely about car races and car crashes, and it's a profoundly silly movie. During the non-action parts, Vin Diesel intimidates people. He’s very good at it. He does it by furrowing his permanently furrowed brow even further.Very impressive! Look, some people like all this nonsense! Mixed or average reviews: 45/45 out of 100.
Variety:A series that's provided a successful, moderately enjoyable ride up to now blows its tires, gasket and transmission on its way to flaming out in Fast & Furious. Trying to refill the franchise's tank by bringing back the four stars of the 2001 original, the producers forgot to get a script worth shooting, resulting in a picture that's all hollow posturing and indiscriminate action cut in incoherent Quantum of Solace fashion. These deficiencies may not matter that much at the box office, where the "Furious" films have continued to prosper, particularly internationally, but this is by far the weakest entry of the four.
Hollywood & Fine: Acting isn't really the point of Fast & Furious. Indeed, this cast can barely act interested.
New York Times: Led by Vin Diesel, an inexpressive chunk of man whose actorly range is largely restricted to the occasional furrowing of a brow, the cast is slotted into a narrative involving revenge against a Mexican drug cartel, outlandish vehicular mayhem, flaunting of custom bodywork (both automotive and anatomical), and settings that encourage people to wear tank tops.
Salon: Diesel, as always, has some charm: He's the kind of cueball lug that guys can admire for his coolness and that women wouldn't mind cuddling up to, and here he delivers even the lamest dialogue with just a hint of a wink -- he's clearly trying to have fun, hoping we will, too. Walker, on the other hand, is a lost cause. He has appeared in plenty of movies since The Fast and the Furious -- including 2 Fast 2 Furious and the Disney sled-dog drama Eight Below -- and still hasn't managed to grow a personality. With the exception of one brief scene, in which he gets to choose the car he'll be driving in the line of duty (with the mischievous greediness of a little kid, he wants them all), he has all the charisma of a potted plant.
Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert: Exactly and precisely what you'd expect. Nothing more, unfortunately. You get your cars that are fast and your characters that are furious. . . . 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.
Rahtree Reborn / บุปผาราตรี3.1: Thai,Horror/ Romance – 90 mins – A rather amateurish half comedy, half laughably inept horror film, starring Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer, experimenting in a different movie genre, one hopes for the last time. The striking posters are truly much better than the film. It’s a sequel to Yuthlert Sippapak’s quite well-known horror films Buppha Rahtree(2003) and Buppah Rahtree Phase 2: Rahtree Returns (2005), and is set in the same apartment where the haunting story was told before.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, April 23
Hotel for Dogs: US/ Germany, Comedy/ Family – 100 mins – Animals are strictly forbidden at the foster home of Andi and her little brother Bruce. But for Friday, the adorable dog they secretly care for, they're ready to risk everything. They finally find him an ideal shelter, a huge abandoned hotel that Bruce transforms thanks to his engineering genius. In what has become an incredible paradise for dogs, Friday is soon joined by all kinds of furry friends, so many in fact that their barks alert the neighbors...and the local pound, who can't understand the disappearance of all the stray dogs. Andi and Bruce will have to call on all their friends and all their imagination to stop the hotel's secret from being discovered. With Don Cheadle as one of the grown-ups. Mixed or average reviews: 51/52 out of 100.
San Francisco Chronicle: Its combination of mild comedy, slapstick, pathos, many photogenic canines and a positive message will make it irresistible to families.
Odd notes: Nearly 70 dogs were used for the making of the film, many of which were actually rescued from the pound. Apparently several of them were adopted by crew members after filming wrapped. You can see many different types of dogs here: Lenny is a Bullmastiff, Georgia is a Boston Terrier, Cooper is a French Bulldog, Shep is a Border Collie, Romeo is a Chinese Crested Dog, Juliet is a Poodle, and Henry is a Beauceron.Most of them were trained for two to three months, but the training of the main “star” dogslasted nearly sixteen weeks.
The Haunting in Connecticut: US,Horror/ Thriller – 102 mins – Rotten Tomatoes: “A direct descendent of classic haunted-house films like BurntOfferings (1975) and The Amityville Horror (1979), The Haunting In Connecticut also features the classic premise of a family moving into a new home where the bad deeds of previous tenants have left a foul psychic residue. Reportedly based on true events experienced by the Snedeker family in the 1970s, Peter Cornwell’s film has plenty of effective scares, but it is also a moving family drama featuring an impressive performance by Virginia Madsen (Sideways).
It is 1987, and Connecticut teenager Matt Campbell (Kyle Gallner) is undergoing painful, experimental cancer treatments. Long drives to the hospital are making a trying experience even worse, so his mother, Sara (Madsen), rents an old house and moves the family closer to Matt’s clinic. Soon after moving into the house, Matt begins to have disturbing hallucinations of strange figures; but believing these visions to be unfortunate side effects of his cancer therapy, he keeps them to himself. When the visions persist, a bit of sleuthing reveals the Campbells’ new abode to be an old funeral home where séances were held in the 1920s by a mortician who also had dealings in the black arts that have left some restless spirits wandering the house. The first half of The Haunting In Connecticut, where it isn’t clear if Matt’s visions are real or imagined, is driven more by the touching story of a mother and son caught in a painful situation than by shocks and scares. Once it’s confirmed that the ghosts are real, however, the film becomes a tight little thriller with some genuinely creepy moments. Martin Donovan, as the alcoholic father of the Campbell family, and Elias Koteas, as a sympathetic priest, do great work in supporting roles.” Generally negative reviews: 33/39 out of 100.
Roger Ebert: The Haunting in Connecticut is a technically proficient horror movie and well acted. We have here no stock characters, but Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan in a troubled marriage, Kyle Gallner as their dying son, and Elias Koteas as a grim priest. They make the family, now known as the Campbells, about as real as they can be under the circumstances. The film has an alarming score and creepy photography, and a house that doesn't look like it has been occupied since the original inhabitants ... died, let's say.
And looking forward:
Apr 30 - X-Men Origins: Wolverine: US/ New Zealand/ Australia,Action/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller– 97 mins – Marvel Enterprises, following hard upon the highly successful reemergence of their comic book franchise in 2008 with Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr., and then a month later The Incredible Hulk, with Edward Norton,has topped them both with their latest, Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman. I think it a superb action film for anyone who likes the genre, with excellent performances by Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and many others.
[Date uncertain, at Vista] - Slumdog Millionaire:US/UK, Crime/ Drama/ Romance – 120 mins – Improbably (a third of the movie is in Hindi, after all), this film won Oscar best picture and best director – and awards for adapted screenplay, original score, film editing, original song, sound mixing, and cinematography.
A brief and wholly inadequate summary of the plot: The life of an impoverished Indian teen who becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?” wins, and is then suspected of cheating. Trailer available here, just click.
Roger Ebert: This is a breathless, exciting story, heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time, about a Mumbai orphan who rises from rags to riches on the strength of his lively intelligence. It tells the story of an orphan from the slums of Mumbai who is born into a brutal existence. A petty thief, impostor and survivor, mired in dire poverty, he improvises his way up through the world and remembers everything he has learned. High-spirited and defiant in the worst of times, he survives. He scrapes out a living at the Taj Mahal, which he did not know about but discovers by being thrown off a train. He pretends to be a guide, invents "facts" out of thin air, advises tourists to remove their shoes and then steals them. . . . The film uses dazzling cinematography, breathless editing, driving music, and headlong momentum to explode with narrative force, stirring in a romance at the same time. For Danny Boyle, it is a personal triumph.
Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting (1996), The Beach (2000), 28 Days Later (2002), Millions (2004) [Note: Millions was given a showing at Film Space on March 14], Sunshine (2007)).
Rated R in the US for some violence, disturbing images, and language. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 86/83 out of 100. At Vista only.