Of dinosaurs and a nymph!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Wednesday, July 1, 2009
… through Wednesday, July 8
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bet: Up.
Programs changed today in an unusual Wednesday opening. Up continues, but only at Vista – the most loved mainstream film of the year so far with its superb pre-feature cartoon. (But the picture here is from Ice Age.)
Bangkok International Film Festival: Sep 24 to 30.
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: Nov 5 to 15.
World Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 6 to 15.
EU Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 19 to 29.
This is Issue Number 36 of Volume 4 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: US, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family/ Romance – 94 mins – Manny, Sid, Diego, and Ellie are back in this third film in the computer-animated Ice Age series. With those creatures in starring roles, we hear again the vocal talents of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, and Queen Latifah. In this outing, Manny and Ellie are expecting their first baby, while Sid the sloth tries an unconventional way of starting a family that gets him into trouble. With all this talk of babies, Diego might be losing his saber-toothed edge, but a journey to save Sid may just turn the whole group into heroes. In addition to all that adventure, it wouldn’t be an Ice Age film if Scrat weren’t on a desperate hunt for an acorn – but he just might get distracted by a shapely female squirrel. Mixed or average reviews: 52/53 out of 100.
Brian Orndorf: Certainly a familiar cocktail of cartoon accomplishments and luxurious CG vistas, but a cozy one, confident with its brand of humor. The simplicity is refreshing, opening the film up to hundreds of smaller pleasures and laughs.
* Nymph / Nang-Mai / นางไม้: Thai, Mystery/ Romance – 90 mins – A slow-paced, minimalist offering with supernatural overtones from one of Thailand’s most interesting directors, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, who gave us the excellent Ploy in 2007. This is his seventh feature and first horror movie, and it premiered last month in the Un Certain Regard competition at the Cannes Film Festival – to decidedly mixed reviews. It revolves around a relationship in trouble – the marriage of May and Nop which seems to have nothing left but inertia to hold it together. The two barely speak to one another, and May has been involved in an affair with her boss for months. Signs of physical affection are still more rare. Despite the emotional distance between them, May decides to accompany Nop on a photography trip into a deep forest where some time before two young men were mysteriously struck dead while attempted to rape a woman. Nobody had ever been able to sort out what happened, but Nop can’t help but feel a certain attraction to a tree near where the incident occurred. Then one night he simply disappears. When he eventually returns, May senses he’s no longer the same man.
Wise Kwai: A romantic drama, ghost story and nature show combine in this thriller about a marriage that’s lost in a thicket of dysfunction.
Floating like a moth, the camera pierces the impenetrable forest in vivid detail, with every sinuous root and knotted branch becoming a lead character. The actors rightly keep their portrayals subtle. No one can compete with Mother Nature. …
Like the forest, Nymph is mysterious and foreboding. But like an ancient tree, it's worth looking at, pondering and sitting under. Strengths include the uniformly strong, understated and naturalistic performances from a fine, brave cast; a complementary subtle and creepy sound design by Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr and Koichi Shimizu and stunning camera work headed by cinematographer Charnkit Chamnivikaipong.
For the Thailand general release, Pen-ek re-edited the film, which was still in rough form when it was rushed to the Cannes Film Festival.
This new 90-minute "Director's Cut" is said to be his definitive version and will be the one that is shipped out to future film festivals and eventually to DVD.
* Wongkamlao / Wong-Kum-Lao / วงษ์คำเหลา: Thai, Comedy/ Family – 90 mins – Popular comedian turned director Mum Jokmok has succeeded in several of his self-directed movies in the past few years. This time he both directs and stars in this romantic comedy in which Mum plays the heir of the Wongkamlao Family, an extremely wealthy family that runs a jewelry business, who falls in love with the poor English tutor of his younger brother, over the objections of his class-conscious family. (In Thai only at Vista, English subtitles at Airport Plaza.)
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. With Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and John Turturro. Now that I’ve seen it, it’s even clearer that it’s all about trade names and merchandising! And yes, the action figures were on sale in the lobby, just as I predicted. And boy! Are they expensive! Optimus Prime (my personal favorite bot) is a whopping 1,500 baht. Some are 3,200, and one was 4,900! Last time none of the toys had “Hasbro” on it; this time, they all did. Last time they were all made in China; this time the same, except for a few which were made in Australia. On sale only at Airport Plaza, not at Vista.
Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) again joins with the Autobots® against their sworn enemies, the Decepticons®. I’m convinced that to really enjoy this film you need years of training. With video games. Generally negative reviews: 36/41 out of 100. These two review excerpts reflect my views quite closely:
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®.
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, and a speech-assisted dog. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88/86 out of 100. At Vista only.
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.
As with the best children’s stories and movies, Up contains subject matter some might say is perhaps too old for the intended viewer: it exposes deep and sensitive issues like death, loss, abandonment, fear, isolation, loneliness, betrayal, and greed, knowing that little kids can grasp (and stomach) a lot more depth than we’d guess.
And Up has a cartoon playing before it, called Partly Cloudy, a 6-minute Pixar study of cartoon genius which reminds me somewhat of the stork sequence at the beginning of Walt Disney’s Dumbo. Not too much has been made of this very funny short, but for my money it is pure brilliance.
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. Only at Vista, with one version dubbed into Thai with no English subtitles, and one English version.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, July 9
D13-Ultimatum / District 13: Ultimatum: France, Action – 95 mins – “At last the sequel to the hit District 13 (Banlieue 13).The new adventures of Leito and Damien take us back to the same Parisian ghetto a few years later with our two heroes once more battling the baddies and the clock to save the city from catastrophe. Principal photography, planned for twelve weeks in France, started on August 11th with Patrick Alessandrin, Luc Besson's longtime assistant (Subway, The Big Blue) and more recently originator of 15 Aout, at the helm. In District 13 - Ultimatum, the camera pursues the duo formed by Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle, two of the biggest names in parkour, the sport invented by David Belle himself that consists of turning elements of the urban landscape into obstacles that must be crossed in leaps, bounds or any other acrobatic manner. Kung Fu Wu Shu world champ Cyril Raffaelli also made his name for his brilliant stunt and fight coordination on Joan of Arc, Dobermann, Ronin and The Brotherhood of the Wolf. In his international acting debut, in 2007, Cyril lined up alongside Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4.”
The Secret of Moonacre: UK, Adventure/ Fantasy – 103 mins – “When 13 year old Maria Merryweather's father dies, leaving her orphaned and homeless, she is forced to leave her luxurious London life to go and live with Sir Benjamin, an eccentric uncle she didn't know she had, at the mysterious Moonacre Manor. Soon Maria finds herself in a crumbling moonlit world torn apart by the hatred of an ancient feud with the dark and sinister De Noir family. Maria discovers that she is the last Moon Princess and, guided by an unlikely mix of allies, she must overcome her family's pride in order to unearth the secrets of the past before the 5000th moon rises and Moonacre disappears into the sea forever.”
And looking forward:
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 Basterdswith 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.