Vista confirms Slumdog Millionaire to open May 7!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, April 23
by Thomas Ohlson
Here are my comments for the films playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, April 23, 2009. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks.
Vista has confirmed May 7 for the opening of this year’s Oscar best picture Slumdog Millionaire. I think this is quite a coup for Vista. It’s been showing at only one theater in Thailand for eight weeks now, the good old Apex (Scala) in Bangkok, and has been doing, as you might imagine, very good business. 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.
Hotel for Dogs, promised for this week, has entirely disappeared, with no trace of it in posters or listings as even being considered for a showing. Too bad; I know some who were rather looking forward to it. And Make It Happen arrived out of the blue; it’s a dance movie along the lines of Step Up.
This is Issue Number 26 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* 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.
New York Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman: Don't misunderstand: the proceedings are pretty silly, and the scares were a lot fresher back in 1979, when we first saw The Amityville Horror. But Cornwell and his cast take things just seriously enough to keep us at least intermittently on edge.
Associated Press, Pat Eaton-robb: Horror film 'A Haunting in Connecticut' draws unwanted visitors to house
SOUTHINGTON, Conn. - A Hollywood horror film that depicts the alleged haunting of a former funeral parlor in central Connecticut is turning into a nightmare for the home's current owners and their neighbors. The movie, A Haunting in Connecticut, doesn't open until Friday, but curious fans are already making a beeline for the Southington home that inspired the movie.
"It's just been really, really stressful," said Susan Trotta-Smith, who bought the home 10 years ago with her husband. "It's been a total change from a very quiet house in a very quiet neighborhood to looking out the window and seeing cars stopping all the time. It's been very, very stressful, and sometimes worrisome."
The family has never seen anything unusual inside their five-bedroom, two-family white wood-frame house and does not believe the property was haunted. [The picture of the actual house shown here was taken on March 18.]
"It's got beautiful woodwork, and there is a nice warm feeling to the house," Trotta-Smith said. "Because it was a funeral home, the upstairs apartment is much more spacious. It's like two full houses, and it has a beautiful yard, too."
The movie is loosely based on stories that revolved around the house in the 1980s. The residents at the time, the Snedeker family, claimed their son would hear strange noises in his basement bedroom, which once held casket displays and was near the old embalming room. He also claimed to see shadows on the wall of people who were not there. A niece visiting the home said she felt hands on her body as she tried to sleep, and her covers levitated.
The family brought in Ed and Lorraine Warren, self-described paranormal researchers, who became famous for documenting the alleged "Amityville Horror" haunting of a home on Long Island. Lorraine Warren says she felt an evil presence in the Southington home and experienced the haunting herself when she spent a night there.
"In the master bedroom, there was a trap door where the coffins were brought up," she said. "And during the night, you would hear that chain hoist, as if a coffin were being brought up. But when Ed went to check, there was nobody down there."Warren said the house was "cleared" of the evil presence after a séance in 1988. A book and a television documentary followed.
Note that the movie was actually filmed in Teulon, Manitoba, Canada.
* Make It Happen: US, Drama – 90 mins – Embarking on a journey to fulfill her dreams as a dancer, a young girl discovers a new style of dance that will prove to be the source of both conflict and self-discovery. From the writer of dance movies such as Step Up and Save The Last Dance.
IMDb viewer: Make It Happen contains two positive elements. The dance sequences are extremely sexy and are also packed with confident energy. In the lead role, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is instantly likable and human. She isn't terrific, but she is still good enough that she puts the rest of the cast (who seem to be waiting for their pay cheques) to shame.
Unfortunately, apart from the dancing and Winstead's performance, the movie falls flat. The plot is utterly predictable, the writing and direction are incredibly lazy and the pacing drags. This just feels like an attempt to cash in on the big public response to movies such as the High School Musical and Step Up instalments.
Khan Kluay 2 /ก้านกล้วย2: Thai, Animation/ Adventure – 90 mins – Khan Kluay, the legendary elephant, is back in action in this superb 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 behind the credits, as the camera swoops through forests and jungles and finally the city of Ayuttaya, using effective multi-plane techniques and just showing off their artistry. The filmmakers seem much more assured than in the first Khan Kluay, and their skills are now really quite advanced. I was also 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? In a bitter and vicious battle between two warring tribes vowing death to the vanquished, it’s difficult to make things 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.
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. Mixed or average reviews: 47/56out of 100.
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.
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 Shrek sort 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 Wednesday, April 29
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 franchises 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.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, April 30
Mor 3 Pee 4 / ม.3 ปี4 เรารักนาย: Thai, Romance/ Comedy – 90 mins – A nice little advertisement for MSN: Four teenagers make friends and chat online on MSN. Thee and Nut are brothers living in Bangkok, June and Jane are sisters who live in Phuket. Do the two pairs finally meet? Well it’s called a “romance” after all!
Saranae howpeng / สาระแนห้าวเป้ง!!: Thai,Comedy – 90 mins – Movie version of "Saranae Show" – a popular Thai comedy TV show that has been on the air for 11 years. With many well-known Thai comedians, including Mum Jokmok (Petchthai Wongkamlao), Kietisak "Hoi" Udomnak, Ple Nakorn, and Willy McIntosh.
And looking forward:
May 7 - 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. Rated R in the US for some violence, disturbing images, and language. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 86/83 out of 100. At Vista only.
And this news item just in: Newser – The father of Slumdog Millionaire child star Rubina Ali tells the BBC he’s not selling his daughter, contrary to a News of the World report he called a “dirty” scheme. The media “made fun of our poverty,” Rafiq Qureshi said. “They tricked us into this fakery but we came out unscathed.” He said he’d been placed in a spot of “great temptation,” but hadn’t made any such deal.
If you’ve not been keeping up with that story, don’t bother to get involved. Pictured here from left front are Rubina Ali, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail as they arrive for the Academy Awards Feb. 22, 2009.
But as to the movie itself, here’s 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)).
May 7 – Star Trek (2009): US/ Germany, Sci-Fi/ Adventure/ Action – 126 mins – All new! This much-anticipated film is a reboot of the series, going back to the series’ ’60s roots by depicting the formative experiences of the legendary heroes Kirk and Spock, and their young, new crew. From director J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III, Lost, and Alias). Early reviews: generally favorable: 75 out of 100.
Time Out Online, Tom Huddleston: It’s a genuine pleasure to report that Abrams’s Star Trek is a winner on almost all fronts. The cast – from Chris Pine’s whisky-soaked, pugilistic lothario Kirk, through Bruce Greenwood’s commanding Pike, to Simon Pegg’s overenthusiastic Scotty – are almost flawless. Perhaps the hardest task goes to Zachary Quinto, not just essaying the series’ most iconic character, Spock, but face-to-face with his predecessor Leonard Nimoy, thanks to the film’s time-mangling plotline. Luckily, Quinto delivers a note-perfect performance, managing, as Nimoy did before him, to make this taciturn, officious, archly superior lifeform enormously likeable.
May 7 – The Tale of Despereaux: UK/ US, Adventure/ Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy – 93 mins – Quite a curious film, with a curious style and point of view. Atmospheric and charming, and not your ordinary plot-driven animation by any means. Rather laid-back, and amusing rather than funny, and pleasant rather than exciting. A fable with simple themes, the straightforward story begins in a nameless town with a "Camelot" vibe, and is told with lushly drawn backdrops, many of which have the look of really old paper. There's also a depth of field throughout The Tale of Despereaux that's reminiscent of skilled hand drawing. This may be the first animated film where you notice the cinematography. Mixed or average reviews: 53/56 out of 100.
May 14 – Angels & Demons:US, Crime/Drama/Mystery/ Thriller – 140 mins – Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon works to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican. The Vatican appears not to be too pleased with this film, understandably, and Vatican officers banned the movie from being filmed in its grounds. The filmmakers had to build a scale replica of St. Peter's Square, one of the crucial locales of the story. Note that although the novel upon which the film is based is set before the events of the novel The Da Vinci Code, the film has been written as a sequel to follow after events in The Da Vinci Code (2006).
And yet a third sequel to The Da Vinci Codeis in the offing.
Author Dan Brown has announced that his next installment in the "Da Vinci Code" series will be "The Lost Symbol," which Doubleday will publish in the U.S. and Canada on Sept. 15. The first print run will be a whopping 5 million copies. Much more than that will be needed if the sales of "Angels and Demons" and "Da Vinci Code" are anything to go by.
"Angels and Demons" has sold 39 million copies to date, and that number is certain to go up following the book’s recent reemergence on the New York Times bestseller list in anticipation of the film’s release. Those sales lag behind "The Da Vinci Code," whose 81 million copies sold puts it behind the Bible but not much else.
Sources said Brown has completed his manuscript. Sony has the rights to the Robert Langdon character, which gives the studio the right to negotiate a deal for the new title. The studio will be bullish. "The Da Vinci Code" grossed $758 million worldwide in 2006, and Columbia has high hopes for the sequel.