It’s still Up!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, June 18, 2009
… through Monday, June 22
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Up. Drag Me to Hell. Angels & Demons. A Frozen Flower (when and if shown).
Here is my list of movies playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, June 18, 2009. There’s also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space.
Programs change next Tuesday with the advent of what the movie folk hope is the next blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
The EU Film Festival is scheduled for Chiang Mai November 5 to 15 (not 14 as previously indicated), before moving on to Bangkok. Unfortunately, this conflicts with Bangkok’s World Film Festival, scheduled for November 6 to 15.
Another film festival is in town, the Fly Beyond the Barbwire Fence Festival 2009, at the auditorium of the Chiang Mai University Art Museum on Nimmanhaemin Road. The film programs began last Saturday and continue through this Saturday; there is a list on this blog of the remaining films. The program is sponsored by the 10-year old Friends Without Borders Foundation, based here in Chiang Mai, which is devoted to giving a voice to the indigenous people of Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces, and to the refugees and migrant workers there. Some of the films are harrowing accounts of the life and deaths of the Karen people, fleeing from a brutal repression in Burma to find a questionable future in Thailand. Others are more joyous, such as the concert film Sleepwalking through the Mekong of the Los Angeles music group Dengue Fever, which specializes in Cambodian music (there is a very large Cambodian community in Southern California) and the group’s concert tour to Cambodia, where they were greeted with great enthusiasm by the Khmer people.
Meanwhile, the most loved mainstream film of the year so far has arrived and doing fine business here: Up. It rates high with reviewers, and with the public as well, already the third-highest earner of the year in the US. I particularly like how the Bangkok Post reviewer Kong Rithdee sums it up: “A real joy. … It’s buoyant and marvelous.”
And don’t forget that Drag Me to Hell has gotten the best reviews of any horror film in years; I thought it a hoot!
Also, A Frozen Flower seems to reappear from time to time at Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, so if by chance you haven’t seen it yet, there is still hope. You can keep checking this blog for the latest info.
There’s now a blog for Pattaya, too, at http://thomatpattaya.blogspot.com/.
This is Issue Number 34 of Volume 4 of these listings.
* Pee-Toom-Tim / Phee Tum Tim / ผีตุ๋มติ๋ม: Thai, Comedy – 90 mins – A goalkeeper on a Thai football team cracks his head on a goal post and dies. But wait, that’s just the beginning! Somehow his body is possessed by the spirit of a transsexual who has a burning desire to see the Thai football team make it to the World Cup. Shown in Thai only with no English subtitles. At Airport Plaza only.
Up: US (Disney/Pixar), Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – 96 mins – Everyone’s current favorite! An animated comedy/fantasy adventure about a 78-year-old balloon salesman (voiced by Ed Asner) who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Also starring Christopher Plummer (see picture above), and a speech-assisted dog. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88/86 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Another masterful work of art from Pixar, Up is an exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt adventure impeccably crafted and told with wit and depth.
Drag Me to Hell: US, Horror/ Thriller – 99 mins – Director Sam Raimi started out making perversely entertaining horror fare like the Evil Dead movies before directing blockbusters like Spider-Man. Well, he's back, and in outstanding B-movie form. Alison Lohman stars as a loan officer who becomes the victim of a curse, with evil spirits on her trail and certain damnation in her future – unless she can break the spell. Drag Me to Hell is a wickedly good time: blood-curdlingly scary and ghoulishly funny, it's also taut and timely. It’s the best-reviewed horror film in years. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 83/78 out of 100. The Vista version is dubbed into Thai, with no English subtitles; in English at Airport Plaza.
Rotten Tomatoes: Sam Raimi returns to top form with Drag Me to Hell, a frightening, hilarious, delightfully campy thrill ride.
Terminator Salvation 4: The Future Begins: US/ Germany/ UK, Action/ Sci-Fi – 130 mins – With Christian Bale, Moon Bloodgood, and Common; directed by McG. In this highly anticipated – in some quarters – fourth installment of The Terminator film franchise, set in post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind. If you’ve seen any of the other three installments of this series, you know what to expect: Plenty of chases, explosions, and great effects. Mixed or average reviews: 52/51 out of 100. Vista has one version dubbed into Thai with no English subtitles; also an English version.
Night at the Museum 2: Escape from [Battle of] the Smithsonian: US/ Canada, Action/ Comedy – 105 mins – If you liked the first adventure, you’re sure to like this one even more – bigger, better, and with fantastic special effects. After a wacky night at the New York Museum of Natural History, the perpetually hapless Larry (Ben Stiller) must infiltrate the Smithsonian after some of his resurrected friends were shipped to Washington for storage. He finds himself in the middle of a vast conflict between many of the museum's most noteworthy historical figures. Mixed or average reviews: 42/50 out of 100.
Angels & Demons: US, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 140 mins – A tight, taut thriller. The team behind the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code returns for the highly anticipated Angels & Demons, based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to advance their goals. Ron Howard again directs. Mixed or average reviews: 48/50 out of 100.
Dek Khong / อนุบาลเด็กโข่ง: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 90 mins – The “King Kong Gang” is a powerful and invincible gang that rules and terrorizes all the kids in the kindergarten, led by a boy of such immense size that a high-school girl who thinks he’s in high school falls for him, rendering him incapable of leading his gang.
Roommate / รูมเมท เพื่อนร่วมห้องต้องแอบรัก: Thai, Romance/ Drama – 90 mins – About three young females and two young males who live together and play together in a rock band named Roommate. As you might expect, includes the band’s music as well. (In Thai only/ no English subtitles.)
Blood: The Last Vampire: Hong Kong/ Japan, Action/ Horror – A thoroughly disgusting mess of violence and killing. A remake of the 2000 movie of the same name about a vampire who is part of a covert government agency that hunts and destroys demons in Japan and who is inserted into a military school to discover which one of her classmates is a demon is disguise. I think the film is depraved and shameful, and serves only to brutalize the people who come to see it. Rated R in the US for strong bloody stylized violence. In English, mostly. Skip it!
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Tuesday, June 23 (yes, Tuesday)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi. It’s Autobots® versus Decepticons®, Round 2, in Michael Bay’s film based on Hasbro’s Transformers™ action figures. Look how we have to write about it! It’s all about trade names and merchandising! The action figures for sure will be on sale in the lobby. Start saving your money, they won’t be cheap. With Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and John Turturro. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) again joins with the Autobots® against their sworn enemies, the Decepticons.
Hollywood Reporter: Bay's team of four editors stitch together smashing but meaningless images, though it's as difficult to make out which machine is which as it is to tell what anyone is saying. The noise level -- not helped by Steve Jablonsky's relentless score -- is super-intense and everyone yells lines at high speed. Because nothing they're saying makes any sense, it's hardly important.
Eye for Film: Despite the intervening years, neither Sam nor the franchise that features him has exactly matured. This sequel is essentially a recap of all the bludgeoning biffo from the first film, only with more characters, and more Transformers on both sides of the (good) Autobot/(bad) Decepticon spectrum. It is bigger and longer than the original – but certainly no better, and this time round lacking even a novelty factor.
The action revolves around a long-buried machine capable of destroying all life on Earth, and an ancient Transformer known as The Fallen (in case anyone misses his Luciferian identity) who returns to set those old cogs a-whirring and take vengeance on the humans he so inexplicably hates. The Fallen orchestrates the resurrection of mega-bad-robot Megatron to help him find the hidden 'Matrix' ignition key for the machine – and so Sam finds himself once again drawn into helping the Christ-like Autobot leader Optimus Prime (cue solemn stirring music whenever he appears) to save humankind.
Both Prime and Sam must make some messianic sacrifices (again) in order to beat the Decepticons to the Matrix and then beat The Fallen to kingdom come – but since their martyrdoms are not permanent (there's the franchise's future to consider), they lack all substance. Here, as in a video game, all the players can call on more than one life, which serves to reduce considerably any sense of real peril.
Much-needed (if very hit-and-miss) comic relief is provided by Sam's embarrassingly all-American parents (Kevin Dunn, Julie White), by former agent Simmons (John Turturro), by new roommate-cum-geek Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), and by a perky pair of rap-speaking Autobots named Mudflap and Skids. Beyond that, it's a series of mindless, pounding, effects-heavy set-pieces, no doubt all technically brilliant, but still numbing on the attention, and cut so fast and furious that it is often, as in the first film, difficult to divine (let alone care) who exactly is doing what to whom.
And looking forward:
Jul 1 (Wednesday) – Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: US, Animation/ Action/ Comedy/ Romance. After the events of Ice Age: The Meltdown, life begins to change for Manny and his friends: Scrat is still on the hunt to hold onto his beloved acorn, while finding a possible romance in a female sabre-toothed squirrel named Scratte. Manny and Ellie, having since become an item, are expecting a baby, which leaves Manny anxious to ensure that everything is perfect for when his baby arrives. Diego is fed up with being treated like a house-cat and ponders the notion that he is becoming too laid-back. Sid begins to wish for a family of his own, and so steals some dinosaur eggs which leads to Sid ending up in a strange underground world where his herd must rescue him, while dodging dinosaurs and facing danger left and right, and meeting up with a one-eyed weasel known as Buck who hunts dinosaurs intently. With the voices of Ray Romano and John Leguizamo.
Jul 16 – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Latest Harry Potter episode. As the boy wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) enters his sixth year at Hogwart's, danger is afoot thanks to the growing forces of He Who Shall Not Be Named. But that's not the only hazard Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to contend with, as another sort of fickle magic is in the air: teenage hormones. Expect director David Yates to serve up the usual brand of Harry Potter excellence (he directed the last HP film, Order of the Phoenix) although screenwriter Steve Kloves has taken some liberties with the material, so Potterites, beware! Voldemort (… oops! I named him!) is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds, and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. If, indeed, ever it was.
Jul 23 – Public Enemies: With Johnny Depp as Dillinger! Michael Mann’s latest film pits Johnny Depp against Christian Bale as the two star as career criminal John Dillinger and G-man Melvin Purvis, respectively, in Public Enemies, a Great Depression-era drama about the FBI’s attempts to shut down organized crime. The film features a strong supporting cast, including Billy Crudup, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard.
Aug 20 – Inglourious Basterds: US/ Germany, Action/ Adventure/ War – Director Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds with Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, and Mélanie Laurent, begins in German-occupied France, where Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema.
Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to engage in targeted acts of retribution. Known to their enemy as "The Basterds," Raine's squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of The Third Reich. Fates converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own.
Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited tale of Jewish-American troops on the hunt for Nazi scalps in WWII France is unlikely to get usurped as the most bad-ass movie of 2009, thanks to the fact that, well, it's a Quentin Tarantino film. Inglourious Basterds stars Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, leader of the titular squadron that includes Samm Levine, Eli Roth, and B.J. Novak; along with German actress and Allied agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), they attempt to bring down the Nazis -- in the bloodiest way possible. Mike Myers, Cloris Leachman, and Samuel L. Jackson also star in the exploitation throwback, so look forward to a star-studded (and gore-filled) good time.