Vista delays Slumdog Millionaire one week to May 14!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, April 30
by Thomas Ohlson
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 30, 2009, plus the terrific Wolverine which opened on Wednesday, April 29.
I’ve also included here information on filmprograms at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks.
Vista has confirmed May 14 for the opening of this year’s Oscar best picture Slumdog Millionaire. I think this is quite a coup for Vista.
This is Issue Number 27 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!
And now there’s now an online version for Pattaya, too, at http://thomatpattaya.blogspot.com/.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* X-Men Origins: Wolverine [opens Wednesday, April 29]: 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 this is simply brilliant, starting out with eight minutes of nigh perfect popular filmmaking, a sequence that is thrilling, sensible, and, wonder of wonders, deeply intriguing! It then veers into a quiet sequence building up a love-interest, which might seem to be just padding, but no, get involved with it, because the love relationship leads to some real emotional payoffs down the line. A superb action film for anyone who likes the genre, with thrilling performances by Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and many others.
* Mor 3 Pee 4 / ม.3 ปี4 เรารักนาย [opens Thursday, April 30]: 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!![opens Thursday, April 30]: 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.
The Haunting in Connecticut: US, Horror/ Thriller – 102 mins – US, Horror/ Thriller – A classic haunted-house film, and really well-done of its type. The Thai audience I was in frequently gasped and screamed in delight at the many scares. Besides which, the family is very believable, and an interesting assortment of people. The story: A family moves into a new home where awful things happened in the past. Based on true events, sort of. Here’s a tip if you ever move into a haunted house: it’s not a good idea to play Hide-and-Seek there. Generally negative reviews: 33/39 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: “A direct descendent of classic haunted-house films like Burnt Offerings (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.”
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.
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.
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: 47/56 out of 100.
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.
Fast & Furious 4: US, Action – 107 mins – Vin Diesel and Paul Walkerreteam 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. Look, some people like all this nonsense! Mixed or average reviews: 45/45 out of 100.
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, 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.
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.
And looking forward:
May 14 – 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.
An impoverished Indian teen 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 14 – Angels & Demons: US, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 140 mins – Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) 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 Code is 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.