Don’t miss Inglourious Basterds!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, August 27, 2009
… through Wednesday, September 2
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Inglourious Basterds. Orphan.
Picture at right is from Orphan.
And there’s a blog for Pattaya, too, at:
Bangkok International Film Festival: Sep 24 to 30. (Schedule promised by Sept. 5th. Some films announced – follow link)
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 44 of Volume 4 of these listings. Next change next Thursday.
Bandslam did not open today, despite being scheduled, despite all the publicity, perhaps because of delays inherent in the film rating system. I am led to believe that the board that rates the films is only on the job part time, and can only see one film a day. Distributors are expecting delays in the releasing of films.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* My Ex / Fan Kao / แฟนเก่า: Thai Horror/ Romance – 90 mins – Ken is a heartthrob of an actor with a bad boy reputation of loving beautiful girls and then dumping them. After his marriage, one of his ex-girlfriends comes back from the grave to exact revenge. Director: Piyaphan Chuphet (Phii mai jim fun / Vow of Death, Necromancer).
Inglourious Basterds: US/ Germany/ France, Drama/ Action/ Adventure/ War – 153 mins – Quentin Tarantino's exceptionally bloody tale of Jewish-American troops on the hunt for Nazi scalps in World War II France, starring Brad Pitt and an amazing Christoph Waltz, a little-known Austrian actor, in a truly fine performance. A must-see movie, though I’m uncomfortable with the fact that I’m recommending a film that carries violence to such extremes. But it’s just that I find the filmmaking skill so mind-blowing. Never have I felt such a deliciously slow and inexorable building of tension in a scene, and such studied control over all the aspects of moviemaking. Will forever change how war movies are filmed, and not only because of its extensive use of German and French – it’s simply a milestone in the history of film.
Rated R in the US for strong graphic violence, language, and brief sexuality. In Thailand it’s rated “18+” under the new ratings system which went into effect August 11. “18+” is an advisory rating that suggests viewers should be 18 or older to see the movie. There’s a warning to this effect just before the film’s main titles. Generally favorable reviews: 69/70 out of 100.
Note that this is basically a foreign-language film, in German,French, andItalian, as well as English, with subtitles.
San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle: It's not enough to say that Inglourious Basterds is QuentinTarantino's best movie. It's the first movie of his artistic maturity, the film his talent has been promising for more than 15 years. The picture contains all the things his fans like about Tarantino - the wit, the audacity, the sudden violence - but this movie's emotional core and bigness of spirit are new.
Inglourious Basterds is an amalgam, an expansion and a fantasy riff on every World War II movie Tarantino has ever seen, but this time his referencing of earlier cultural markers doesn't seem arbitrary or in-jokey. Tarantino gets inside our collective movie dream of World War II for the sake of liberating the audience from convention. …
The nimbleness of tone is striking, but what holds it all together … is Tarantino's singleness of vision. It would be an epic misperception to see Inglourious Basterds as some irreverent pastiche. It's not. Every liberty Tarantino takes, in both tone and history, is part of the filmmaker's overarching determination to remind audiences - remind them so they feel it - that World War II was, to put it mildly, the worst thing that has ever happened.
Rotten Tomatoes: Historians may have plenty of quibbles with Quentin Tarantino's wild and wooly take on World War II. However, critics have fewer reservations on Inglourious Basterds, calling it an audacious, bravura piece of pulpy pop filmmaking-- a bracing, tense exercise in over-the-top action.
Reel Views, James Berardinelli: With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino has made his best movie since Pulp Fiction. He has also made what could arguably be considered the most audacious World War II movie of all-time. The sheer unpredictability of where all this is going makes it compelling from beginning to end. Even the film's occasional artistic flourishes (such as chapter titles and out-of-period music pieces) work within the context of what Tarantino is trying to accomplish. This is clearly an attempt by the director to expand his range and step outside of the comfort zone in which he has worked for the majority of his career.
Tarantino brings to Inglourious Basterds his not inconsiderable knowledge of films. The movie is awash in references - some subtle, some obvious - that run the gamut from D-grade exploitation flicks to A-list classics. This is not, as has been reported in some places, a remake of the 1978 feature The Inglorious Bastards, although the title is an homage. Reportedly, some of Tarantino's nascent versions of the screenplay used elements of the earlier film, but those are mostly gone in the final edition. This is pretty much 100% Tarantino, which could be good or bad, depending on your opinion of the man's work.
Tarantino loves dialogue and, between taut, brutal action sequences, there's a lot of talking. The conversations aren't as elliptical as some of those in the director's previous efforts, but there are some intriguing moments - a Nazi providing a detailed comparison between Jew-hunting and rat-hunting, a 20 questions-like guessing game with the answer of "King Kong," and a reverse Cinderella encounter in which having a foot to fit the shoe is not a good thing. (Tarantino gets his trademark foot fetish shot in this scene.) There is a point to the talk, however, that goes beyond the filmmaker showing off his skill with words. All these scenes precede instances of sudden, violent action and the threat of bloodshed is heavy in the air. With every sentence, the tension mounts. Tarantino uses these sequences to prime the audience, teasing them until the suspense is nearly unbearable, then releasing it in one explosive burst.
Watching Inglourious Basterds, I was reminded of Paul Verhoeven's Black Book and Bryan Singer's Valkyrie, both of which contain themes and ideas that are echoed here. This is no Schindler's List. It's not about nobility or sacrifice. It's about the dirty, bloody side of war. Yes, there's heroism, but a lot is hidden away in order for those who receive medals to retain a patina of valor. Inglourious Basterds is suffused with dark humor - so much so that it's tempting to label it an action/comedy. There are laugh-out-loud moments, and not one guffaw is the result of something unintentional. This is nothing new for Tarantino, who has always interwoven humor with violence, but its incorporation here, amidst some of his bleakest material, is refreshingly unsettling.
Most Tarantino films feature at least one high-profile actor in a major role and, in this case, it's Brad Pitt. From his opening speech about the mission - one that recalls monologues from The Dirty Dozen and Patton - Pitt is clearly in character. His capabilities as an actor are often overlooked because of his high-profile off-screen image, but he takes chances and rarely gives a bad performance. As Raine, he's in top form, getting most of the best lines and generating a lot of the humor. The role is unlikely to garner Pitt an Oscar nomination, but it will be remembered.
Christoph Waltz [picture right] won an acting award at Cannes for his portrayal of Landa the Jew Hunter, and it's one of those deliciously twisted roles designed to unsettle audiences. He's like the lion who curls up at your feet and purrs as you stroke it, then suddenly jumps up and rips off your arm. It's a charismatic portrayal that shows how insidious evil can be. Perhaps that's unfair - Landa is not so much evil as he is coldly logical, amoral, and opportunistic. The character is a formidable adversary; Waltz is a formidable thespian.
There's a little stunt casting involved, although not as much as there might have been had scheduling conflicts not kept Adam Sandler from appearing. The role he was to play went to Eli Roth. It's interesting that the director of the "torture porn" Hostel movies should appear as a soldier who loves to beat Nazis to a pulp with a baseball bat while everyone around cheers. ("It's the closest thing we have to a movie," comments Raine at one point.)
Inglourious Basterds isn't as fresh and freewheeling as Pulp Fiction, but Tarantino is now an established director and a known quantity. That he is able to successfully pull off some of what he does in this movie is a testimony to his skill at both writing and directing. Yes - he borrows heavily and shamelessly from other movies, but it's in the unique fusion of those sources and styles that he achieves his success. Despite having so many antecedents, Inglourious Basterds quickly carves out its own niche. The running length is a gaudy 153 minutes, yet the film moves so smoothly and the moving parts come together so cleanly that the time passes easily. This is the movie I have been awaiting since Pulp Fiction. It's one hell of an enjoyable ride into the nightmare that was Nazi-occupied France, and thinking you know how it all ends doesn't make it so.
Buppha Rahtree 3.2: Rahtree's Revenge / บุปผาราตรี 3.2: Thai, Horror/ Romance – Continues the romantic-horror story of the revengeful ghost of Buppha and her love struck cartoonist, played by Mario Maurer of Love of Siam fame. There’s the creepy little girl again; and Rahtree herself (ChermarnBoonyasak), playing with a straight razor; and the comic troupe is all present and accounted for. An exceptionally bloody and confusing horror flick, and one of those where most of the work of scaring the audience is done by the soundtrack’s spooky music and sound effects. Rated “18+” in Thailand under the new ratings system. “18+” is an advisory rating that suggests viewers should be 18 or older to see the movie. Has the dubious honor of being the first Thai film to be rated under the long-awaited Thai movie-rating law.
Orphan: US/ Canada/ Germany/ France, Drama/ Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 123 mins – This is a dandy little horror film! I thoroughly enjoyed it! A husband and wife who recently lost their baby adopt a 9-year-old girl who is not nearly as innocent as she claims to be. Rated R in the US for disturbing violent content, some sexuality, and language. Mixed or average reviews: 42/51 out of 100.
If you enjoy a good spooky horror film now and then, I recommend you check this out. It’s quite well done.
But watch out for the two glaringly obvious censorship cuts in this film as shown here in Chiang Mai, clear for all to see – one having to do with sex, one having to do with violence. They are just crude chops in the film, no question of pixilation or the like. You can’t miss them.
It has ever been thus in my time in Thailand. There has been one current of censorship that has gone the pixilation, fuzz, or blob route, and at the same time an independent cutting current that, with authority to do so or not, just simply cuts a scene or a part of a scene that someone somewhere finds objectionable.
I have a feeling that these kinds of cuts will continue, no matter what film rating system may be enacted.
Roger Ebert: Here is a shamelessly effective horror film based on the most diabolical of movie malefactors, a child. . . .
You have to hand it to Orphan. You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one. Do not, under any circumstances, take children to see it. Take my word on this.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Tirdad Derakhshani: Orphan, with a perverse plot twist at the end, will keep you on tenterhooks from its nightmarish opening scene to its chilling last frame.
Trail of the Panda / Xiong mao hui jia lu / 熊貓回家路: China, Family – 87 mins – A Disney live action film directed by Chinese director Yu Zhong about a panda cub that is separated from its mother and subsequently rescued by an orphaned boy after going through a series of hardships and dangers in the forest.
The film was shot in the wilderness of Wolong, Sichuan, the area that was destroyed during the massive earthquake of May 2008, as the film crew was shooting, trapping some 28 crew members, including the director, in the mountains for four days. The magnitude 8.0 quake left more than 80,000 people dead or missing, and 370,000 injured. Also lost was the 10-year-old female panda playing Pang Pang’s mother in the film; she died in the quake, leaving three orphans.
Made in conjunction with China’s Wolong Panda Reservation, the movie is a plea for understanding of pandas and for preserving their existence. The parents of Lin Ping, the new Chiang Mai Zoo panda cub born May 27, are from this panda center.
The story is sweet and the film is charming with several things to recommend it – the very winning 11-year-old boy who stars, the loving shots of the countryside, the animal photography – overall it’s a good film for families with kids. And the social and political implications of the fact of the movie are of interest as well; pandas are a part of the culture of Chiang Mai now, as are our relations with China due to the panda loans (China still owns the pandas we have, even the new cub).
Jija - Raging Phoenix / Jija - Due Suai Du/ จีจ้า ดื้อ สวย ดุ: Thai, Action/ Romance – 110 mins – Martial arts film starring the amazing girl from the film Chocolate, Jija Yanin, a true female action icon, who here combines her startling fight skills with a love story and break dancing. A rather odd mix of a film and a real confusion, but it should please martial arts fans. Watch it only when you're really in the mood for seeing startling martial arts images in a disconnected pattern.
Asian-cinema blog: There has been a lot of anticipation and expectations after Jija Yanin’s explosive debut in Chocolate. Her action skills harkened back to the glory days of Hong Kong’s Girl with Gun’s actresses and it was a pleasure to revel in her knockdown scenes of precise mayhem. Unfortunately, I don’t think those expectations will be met in this truly weird mess of a film. In martial arts film I think the saying “keep it simple stupid” applies rather well – keep the plot and the characters fairly basic but make the action sizzle and sway because that is what we are coming for. Instead the film makers weave a bizarrely convoluted and silly plot that only detracts from the main purpose of the film – seeing Jija kick ass. The other major flaw in the film – at least from my perspective – is that it is almost an ensemble piece with Jija being the lead character but often subordinate in the action sequences. The film does showcase some other terrific talent leading one to ponder whether the martial art’s film capital has shifted from Hong Kong to Bangkok – but I wanted wall to wall Jija and that was far from the case.
Jija’s character Deu is an emotionally erratic drummer in a rock band who flies off the handle one time too many and is booted from the band. She takes to the bottle and in one drunken night a group of bad guys tries to kidnap her for their nefarious purposes. She is rescued though by Sanim, a sad eyed martial arts expert in a terrific scene in which he is attacked by multitudes of high jumping razor sharp roller bladders out for the kill. She is carried back to his ramshackle headquarters where she meets two of his cohorts – Dog Shit and Pig Shit (Bull Shit shows up later, no kidding) – and soon thereafter another good fight breaks out as they are again attacked by villains after Jija. Their mix of break dancing and martial arts is entertaining and Jija becomes a main prop in their fighting off the bad guys.
So why do the bad guys want Jija so badly? Her smell apparently. The Jaguar Gang is in the business of finding women with a special pheromone that emits an odor that is sexually addictive. And they have Sniffers who walk through crowds sniffing for the few women who have this quality. For years they have been kidnapping girls and one of them was Pie, Sanim’s bride and another was the wife of one of the Shit’s (sorry can’t recall which one) who was a Sniffer for the cops.
Jija of course decides that she wants to join the group and learn their specialty – a form of drunken martial arts in which their bodies are fluid and they have no fear. She not surprisingly learns quickly but never really gets all that good until she truly feels her body filled with pain and sadness. This final fight which takes place in the freakish rabbit hole underground lair of the main villain, a lithe supple black female, is pretty terrific but it was a long time to wait for the producers to finally let Jija show her stuff. I came away still full of awe for Jija and also realizing in this film that she can play very cute if she wants to – but generally thinking this was a missed opportunity to further her career and to establish her as the Queen of Action. Maybe next time. Just let her kick ass from the start, guys. My rating: 6.5
Wise Kwai: The look of the film is gorgeous, thanks to director, co-writer and co-editor Rashane Limtrakul, whose 1995 debut Romantic Blue was full of stylish camera angles and framing. I'm not sure why it took him 14 years to make another feature. Aiding him is director of photography Tiwa Moeithaisong, who burnished the city's look in director Poj Arnon'sBangkok Love Story and made blood beautiful in his own Meat Grinder.
The photography and editing don't get in the way of the fighting. Though hand-held, the camera movement is unobtrusive and the focus stays clear. The framing pulls back just enough to capture the action, which is supervised by stunt guru Panna Rittikrai and his team. Adding to the overall style is the locations, which are exotic for a Thai film in that there's nothing all that Thai about them. The beachside hangout, for example, has a Mediterranean feel, while the abandoned warehouses and a creepy old amusement park could be anywhere.
But the rather plodding, clunky plot exposition detracts from the action, despite the best efforts of Jija, whose fierceness explodes in the climactic final battle, and she's screaming with bloody rage.
In the picture above, you see (on your right) Sanim, a strong, mostly-silent type who hangs out with the three other guys, the Mohawked Kee Moo (Pig Shit), the long-haired Kee Ma (Dog Shit), and the dreadlocked Kee Kwai (Bull Shit). The Kee "brothers" are all members of the B-Boy Thai martial-arts break dance team. Sanim is played by French-Vietnamese martial artist "Kazu" Patrick Tang.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 107 mins – It’s from Hasbro the toy-makers, and is very much like Transformers – Critic-proof nonsensical mayhem, and very loud, but stylish. Make sure you take your earplugs! Generally negative reviews: 32/40 out of 100.
I actually found it quite a bit more enjoyable than Transformers, which I guess might not be saying much. But if you like an occasional action flick, I think this is one of the better ones. With Dennis Quaid and Marlon Wayans (he was a lot of fun!). Directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy and it’s two sequels, and Van Helsing).
Empire, Dan Jolin: The trick with Stephen Sommers is not to take him too seriously. . . . Hugging the dumb and making it fun is Sommers’ strength.
Joblo.com:G.I.Joe may not be a great movie, but it sure is a hoot and a half, just make sure to find that inner child in you that still likes to play pretend. GO JOE!
Philadelphia Inquirer, David Hiltbrand: A brazen, earsplitting, eye-popping, oddly satisfying action extravaganza.
In Country & Melody 2 / E-Som Somwang 2 / อีส้มสมหวัง ชะชะช่า: Thai, Comedy/ Musical – 115 mins – Som and Somwangfrom the first episode abandon their musical band to pursue their dreams in Bangkok. Somwang gets a job as a singer in a night cafe, and is soon allured by the night life, girls, and fame.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, September 3
The Final Destination 4: US, Horror/ Thriller – 82 mins – After a teen's premonition of a deadly race-car crash helps saves the lives of his peers, Death sets out to collect those who evaded their end. Major Cineplex has chosen this film to inaugurate its new digital 3D cinema system here in Chiang Mai. They’re hard at work as we speak, installing the new equipment in Cinema 3. And the price of regular seats will be raised from 120 baht to 200 baht for the added dimension! But you get your money’s worth with this one: It contains 11 death scenes, the most of any film in the series! Rated R in the US for strong violent/ gruesome accidents, language, and a scene of sexuality.
Bandslam: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Music – 111 mins – Probably the only film ever with a character named “Sa5m.” (Hint, the “5” is silent; it’s a sign of her independence, you know?) A new kid in town, teenager Will Burton, assembles a fledgling rock band to compete against the best in the biggest event of the year, a battle of the bands. Stars Disney Channel superstars Vanessa Anne Hudgens (High School Musical 1, 2, 3) and Alyson Michalka (Phil of the Future, pop duo Aly and AJ), joined by Gaelan Connell (Chocolat), Scott Porter (Speed Racer) and Lisa Kudrow ("Friends"). Against all odds, their band develops a sound all its own with a real shot at success in the contest. In picture below, Vanessa Hudgens as Sa5m, Gaelan Connell as Will Burton. It seems a romance brews between Will and Sa5m, who plays a mean guitar and has a voice to die for. Or so it says here in their promotional literature . . . Generally favorable reviews: 66/64 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Bandslam is a Disney film about awkward teens who find themselves through the transformative power of music. Sound familiar? Well, critics say this high school musical is a surprise, with more wit and bite than one would expect. Gaelan Connell stars as a David Bowie-obsessed kid who's asked to manage the band of a would-be singer-songwriter (Alyson Michalka). Will falls for one of the band's new members (Vanessa Hudgens), and finds he must navigate the minefield of his emotions while preparing his charges for a battle of the bands. The pundits say Bandslam isn't the most original film on the block, but the performances are uniformly strong, and the movie manages to be emotionally true while slightly tweaking teen movie tropes.
The Gamer: US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 95 mins – Set in a near future when gaming and entertainment have evolved into a terrifying new hybrid. Humans control other humans in mass-scale, multi-player online games: people play people...for keeps. Mind-control technology is widespread, and at the heart of the controversial games is its creator, reclusive billionaire Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall). His latest brainchild, the first-person shooter game "Slayers," allows millions to act out their most savage fantasies online in front of a global audience, using real prisoners as avatars with whom they fight to the death. Rated R in the US for frenetic sequences of strong brutal violence throughout, sexual content, nudity and language.
And looking forward:
Sep 17 – District 9: South Africa/ New Zealand, Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Action/ Thriller [Language: English and Nyanja – a language of the Bantu language family widely spoken in south-central Africa] – 112 min – 28 years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. Rated R in the US for bloody violence and pervasive language. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81/77 out of 100.
Genre master Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, etc.) produced this science-fiction film, the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp. He simply gave the director $30 million to make whatever he wanted. The result was this film. Shot in Johannesburg.
Rotten Tomatoes: Technically brilliant and emotionally wrenching, District 9 has action, imagination, and all the elements of a thoroughly entertaining science-fiction classic.
Los Angeles Times, Betsy Sharkey: In a good summer, there's usually a movie that will come out of nowhere and completely wow us. This is a good summer, and that movie is District 9. Though the themes are universal, the director's childhood in South Africa clearly informs the film's sensibility, in this case greatly adding to its distinctive look and feel. It's an impressive first feature for the 29-year-old Blomkamp.
Oct 1 – G Force: In Digital 3D. US, Action/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – 88 mins – A specially trained squad of guinea pigs is dispatched to stop a diabolical billionaire from taking over the world. Major Cineplex is gearing up for this one, using their new Disney Digital 3D in Cinema 3.
Oct 1 – Shutter Island: US, Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 148 mins – Director Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo, and Max von Sydow in this horror fantasy. Previews look really good to me. It's 1954, and up-and-coming U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital. He's been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn't been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. Teddy's shrewd investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals "escape" in the confusion, and the puzzling, improbable clues multiply, Teddy begins to doubt everything - his memory, his partner, even his own sanity.
Oct 22 – Surrogates: US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 104 mins – Previews look fascinating to me for this one too. Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, a cop (Bruce Willis) investigates the murder of the genius college student who invented the surrogates. As the case grows more complicated, the withdrawn detective discovers that in order to actually catch the killer he will have to venture outside the safety of his own home for the first time in many years, and enlists the aid of another agent (Radha Mitchell) in tracking his target down. Jonathan Mostow directs this adaptation of the graphic novel by author Robert Venditti and illustrator Brett Weldele.
Dec 17 – Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – From director James Cameron, who originally attempted to get this film made in 1999 immediately after his huge success with Titanic (1997). However, at the time, the special effects he wanted for the movie ran the proposed budget up to $400 million. No studio would fund the film, and it was subsequently shelved for almost ten years. This is, in fact, the director’s first feature film since Titanic. The story involves a band of humans pitted in battle against a distant planet's indigenous population. In December 2006, Cameron described Avatar as "a futuristic tale set on a planet 200 years hence... an old-fashioned jungle adventure with an environmental conscience... [that] aspires to a mythic level of storytelling." A January 2007 press release described the film in these words: "Avatar is also an emotional journey of redemption and revolution.”
The scores given, on a basis of 100, are from two web sources. The first, in bold, is from Metacritic.com, and the other is from RottenTomatoes.com. Both read a great number of critics and convert what is said into scores, which are then averaged. For movies released in the US only.
Movie Rating System
There are seven categories under the new system:
Category 1 covers educational films that all are encouraged to see;
Category 2 films are those deemed suitable for a general audience;
Category 3 films are suitable for viewers aged 13 years and over;
Category 4 for those over 15;
Category 5 for those over 18; and
Category 6 for those 20 and older.
And then there’s the invisible Category 7, which doesn’t need a symbol because it’s absolutely forbidden to be shown.
The ratings 1 to 5 are only a guide and will be enforced mainly by social pressure, according to Culture Minister Teera Salakpetch, but entry to Category 6 films would be strictly controlled, with fines of between Bt20,000 and Bt100,000 for cinemas that do not comply.