Fantasy reigns in Moonacre!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, July 9, 2009
… through Wednesday, July 15
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Up. Nymph (for aficionados only).
Up continues, but only at Vista – the most loved mainstream film of the year so far with its superb pre-feature cartoon. Only one showing a day, at noon.
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 37 of Volume 4 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* The Secret of Moonacre: Hungary/ UK/ France, Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy/ Romance – 103 mins – Also known as The Little White Horse and for a while called The Moon Princess. From the children’s book "Moonacre" or "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge, published in England in 1994. It’s also been a TV series, a 1994 6-part mini-series. The film comes by way of the Hungarian director and animator Gabor Csupo (pronounced "Chew-po") who gave us Bridge to Terabithia in 2007, and has been involved in many TV animations (Rugrats, Simpsons, Casper) as both animator and producer.
After finishing her debut role in The Golden Compass at the age of 12, Dakota Blue Richards was then cast in The Secret of Moonacreat the age of 13. By the time of the premiere of The Golden Compass, The Secret of Moonacre had already been filmed, primarily in Budapest.Also stars Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced "Yo-wahn Griffith"), the British actress Natascha McElhone, and Tim Curry, the very hard-working actor who has had 179 TV and film roles since 1975’s seminal The Rocky Horror Picture Show – and several before that.
LondonTimes:A shrewd mix of live action and exotic animation by the Hungarian director GaborCsupo. The plot springs from a large, dusty, leather-bound fairytale about a strange land far, far away. It’s the only relic the 13-year-old MariaMerryweather (Dakota Blue Richards) has inherited from her dead and dissolute father.The orphan is dispatched to live with her brooding uncle (Ioan Gruffudd) in a shabby Gothic pile cursed by an ancient feud over a handful of pearls. His nemesis, TimCurry, stews in the woods near by. Maria has the magic to settle their dispute. Whether she will or not is another matter. Csupo gets the awkward adolescence just right, and the magic realism is frightfully English.
I am sorry to report that the film has garnered generally negative reviews: 37 out of 100. AtAirportPlaza only.
RottenTomatoes: Despite impressive production values, this is staid, plodding, and unimpressive fantasy-fare, with poor performances struggling with an underdeveloped script. Lovely production design.
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. I found it intriguing, and beautifully executed. This is his seventh feature and first supernatural 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.
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 AkritchalermKalayanamitr and Koichi Shimizu and stunning camera work headed by cinematographer CharnkitChamnivikaipong.
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.
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 EdAsner) 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 ChristopherPlummer, and a speech-assisted dog. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88/86 out of 100. At Vista only, and only once a day, at noon.
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 WaltDisney’sDumbo. Not too much has been made of this very funny short, but for my money it is pure brilliance.
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 RayRomano, JohnLeguizamo, DenisLeary, and Queen Latifah – and newcomer SimonPegg, as a crazed weasel. 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 is fearful of 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 gets 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.
Wongkamlao / Wong-Kum-Lao / วงษ์คำเหลา:Thai, Comedy/Family – 90 mins – Popular comedian turned director Mum Jokmok both directs and stars in this quite well-received romantic comedy in which Mum plays the heir of the Wongkamlao Family, an extremely wealthy family that runs a jewelry business.He 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 AirportPlaza.)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi. It’s Autobots® versus Decepticons®, Round 2, in MichaelBay’s film based on Hasbro’s Transformers™ action figures. With Shia LaBeouf, MeganFox, and JohnTurturro.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 AirportPlaza, not at Vista.
SamWitwicky (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: 35/41 out of 100. These two review excerpts reflect my views quite closely:
HollywoodReporter: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 SteveJablonsky'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.
Scheduled for ChiangMai cineplexes on Thursday, July 16
HarryPotter and the Half Blood Prince: US/ UK, Adventure/Fantasy/Mystery/ Romance – Latest Harry Potter episode.The biggie! Will it be the blockbuster everyone expects it to be? Will it thrill us all? Go and see!
As HarryPotter begins his 6th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he discovers an old book marked mysteriously "This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince" and begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort's dark past.
As the boy wizard HarryPotter (DanielRadcliffe) 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 DavidYates to serve up the usual brand of Harry Potter excellence (he directed the last HP film, Order of the Phoenix) although screenwriter SteveKloves has taken some liberties with the material, so Potterites, beware! Voldemort (… oops! There I go again, naming 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.
And looking forward:
Jul 23 – Public Enemies: With JohnnyDepp 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 BillyCrudup, ChanningTatum, GiovanniRibisi, and Oscar-winner MarionCotillard.
Aug 20– Inglourious Basterds: US/ Germany, Action/Adventure/ War – 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. InglouriousBasterds stars BradPitt as Lt. AldoRaine, leader of the titular squadron that includes SammLevine, EliRoth, and B.J.Novak; along with German actress and Allied agent Bridgetvon Hammersmark (DianeKruger), they attempt to bring down the Nazis -- in the bloodiest way possible. MikeMyers, ClorisLeachman, and SamuelL.Jackson also star in the exploitation throwback, so look forward to a star-studded (and gore-filled) good time.