Scares, and fashion!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, September 10, 2009
… through Wednesday, September 16
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Inglourious Basterds. Phobia 2. Coco avant Chanel.
Picture at right is “Gao” La-ongmanee from the first segment of Phobia 2.
Due to my current health problems, the blog for Pattaya has been discontinued. And times for Chiang Mai showings will only be updated once a week, on Thursdays.
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 46 of Volume 4 of these listings. Next change next Thursday.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Phobia 2 / Haa Phrang / 5 แพร่ง/ ห้าแพร่ง: Thai, Horror – 15+ – Literally "five crossroads," this is a five-part horror anthology by some of Thailand’s best-known directors of horror films, including segments by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom (Shutter), Paween Purikitpanya (Body #19), Songyos Sugmakanan (Dorm), and Visute Poolvoralaks, who is not a best-known director but is instead a best-known producer of horror films (all the films mentioned) and other very successful films, here making his directorial debut. It's a mixed bag as it would have to be, but well worth checking out if you like Thai horror films. Actually, I can’t imagine anyone not having a lot of fun with the last of the five – very enjoyable – a segment poking gentle fun at the horror-movie genre. The five stories are:
Also known as Thorny Palm Tree, this is directed by PaweenPurikitpanya, who directed the “Tit for Tat” section in the first Phobia, and also directed the quite successful Body #19. It features the very talented Jirayu “Gao” La-ongmanee, the child star of the two Naresuan’s and the young Tong in Love of Siam. He plays Pey, a motorbike-racing, rock-throwing windshield-smasher who’s mother sent him into hiding in a spooky forest temple. It’s all atmospheric as we watch Pey having his head shaven and taking his vows, everything seemingly fraught with unspoken menace. Notice the big bruise on Gao’s mouth, which comes and goes. Nice feel to the movie.
There were a lot of screams in the theater with this one, as the young teens in attendance jumped, screamed, and then turned to their companions and laughed at their reactions. It’s the old ritual, and this segment did its duty well. Also known as Shared Room, this is the one by first-time director but veteran studio executive Visute Poolvoralaks, with the script written by co-writers Sophon Sakdaphisit and Parkpoom Wongpoom who scripted both of the horror hits Shutter and Alone. The story stars singer “Dan” Worawech Danuwong [picture above, right] as another young biker who has casts on both legs, and is put into a hospital room with a supposedly dying man whose life support is due to be unplugged soon. But the man has strange tattoos on his leathery old skin, and in the middle of the night some of the strangest things begin to happen. . . .
This is the fourth pairing of actor Charlie Trairat [picture right] and director Songyos Sugmakanan, beginning with the legendary Fan Chan when Charlie was a very young boy, continuing with the marvelous coming of age story Dorm, and the more recent Hormones. Now 16, Charlie is here getting away from his sweet roles and getting into a darker side of his personality. A pair of Japanese hitchhikers join Charlie and the threatening driver of a 10-wheel truck for a ride down a remote highway. The truck’s contents start to thump in the back, and it’s soon revealed that the cargo is human cargo involved in some nightmarish drug smuggling scheme. And the drug they’re smuggling seems to turn them into zombies!
Next is Salvage or Used Car as singer-actress Nicole Theriault plays the owner of a used car lot who assures her potential customers that the cars they’re looking at are in perfect shape. The truth is that some of them have been in gruesome wrecks that have killed their passengers. Late one night the aggrieved spirits of the dead, all the ghosts that haunt the cars, rise up against her deceptive ways. This segment is directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, half of the pair that wrote and directed Shutter and Alone.
5. In the End
The other half of the pair responsible for Shutter and Alone, BanjongPisanthanakun, directed thislaugh-filled horror parody, and I think it is really enjoyable. It’s a Thai belief that there are ghosts on horror-movie sets, and this segment plays around with that idea. For my money, the stars of the show are the four guys from the first Phobia who went on a camping trip and told ghost stories in their tent at night. Here they are the crew trying to make the ghost movie. Pretty funny stuff.
In this segment, also know as People on Set, the star of the well-known horror film Alone, MarshaWattanapanich, plays a parody of her role in that film, sort of a diva singer-actress.
* Coco avant Chanel / Coco Before Chanel: France, Drama/ Biography – 105 mins – The story of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, who begins her life as a headstrong orphan, and through an extraordinary journey becomes the legendary couturier who embodied the modern woman and became a timeless symbol of success, freedom, and style. Starring Audrey Tautou. A rather lavish biopic in the old mode, well made and brilliantly acted, with plenty of sweeping vistas and grand passions. Enjoyable, though perhaps it stops short of telling the whole story. Mixed or average reviews: 58 out of 100. In French with English and Thai subtitles. At Vista only.
Variety: More sentimental than chic, Gallic biopic "Coco Before Chanel" nonetheless knits a convincing portrait of the designer's journey from her humble beginnings as a provincial seamstress to the halls of Parisian haute couture. Focusing on the era in which Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (winningly played by Audrey Tautou) served as mistress of an eccentric millionaire, the film reveals, via meticulous period imagery, how the couturier forged a style that would change the way women dressed in the 20th century.
* The Proposal: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 108 mins – With Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, and Betty White. A pushy boss forces her young assistant to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada. Mixed or average reviews: 48/53 out of 100.
Roger Ebert: A movie about a couple who start out hating each other and end up liking each other. It's a funny thing about that. I started out hating the movie and ended up liking it…. The Proposal recycles a plot that was already old when Tracy and Hepburn were trying it out. You see it coming from a great distance away. As it draws closer, you don't duck out of the way, because it is so cheerfully done, you don't mind being hit by it.
The Final Destination 4: In Digital 3D! US, Horror/ Thriller – 82 mins – 18+ – 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 his plans. In its wisdom, Major Cineplex has chosen this film to inaugurate its new digital 3D cinema system here in Chiang Mai in Cinema 3. And the price of regular seats has been raised from 120 baht to 200 baht for the added dimension and added clarity!
But I have to tell you the movie is only one dimension in terms of story and character. Nevertheless, you sort of get your money’s worth with this one, should you enjoy watching deaths: It contains 11 death scenes, the most of any film in the series. They brag about it! Rated R in the US for strong violent/ gruesome accidents, language, and a scene of sexuality; “18+” in Thailand, 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. Generally unfavorable reviews: 30/30 out of 100.
Far be it from me to discourage you if you truly slaver over this sort of thing, but I thought it truly repulsive and offensive. You have various human organs flying at you right through the cinema, and yes your reflexes make you actually duck!
Variety, Jordan Mintzer: An array of gory mayhem only marginally enhanced by 3-D and a plot as developed as a text message.
Boston Globe, Wesley Morris: The writers don’t write, the director doesn’t really direct, and the actors don’t exactly act. They wait for the movie’s contraptions to impale them.
Austin Chronicle, Marc Savlov: As mesmerizing as watching bread toast. Death, be not proud, indeed.
The Gamer: US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 95 mins – 18+ – I found this an absolutely repellent and repugnant film, and I would have no problem with its being banned and all copies burned. I think it’s just too brutalizing to exist. By the writers and directors of the two recent Crank movies, as they continue their quest for ever bigger explosions, action which is even more “non-stop,” and plots and stories which explore the outer limits of the vile and sick. Set in a near future when gaming and entertainment have evolved into a terrifying new hybrid, allowing 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. It’s truly evil and traffics in demented ideas. Rated R in the US for frenetic sequences of strong brutal violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and language; “18+” in Thailand. Generally unfavorable reviews: 20/31 out of 100.
New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis: If you thought that Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (the brain trust behind the Crank franchise) had already plumbed the basement of bad taste, be prepared to discover the sub-basement: Gamer, a futuristic vomitorium of bosoms and bullets.
Reelviews, James Berardinelli: Nothing will save the production from the savage word-of-mouth likely to develop. Anyone interested in playing would be better served staying home and turning on the PS3. And anyone interested in seeing a movie would be hard-pressed to find a worst option. Game over.
Flickfilosopher, Mary Ann Johanson: It’s visually incomprehensible, emotionally empty, thematically nihilistic, almost entirely plotless... and it thinks those are virtues. Do you need more reasons to stay away from this all-around pointless gorefest?
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). Unaccountably bloody, dreadful, and confusing, even for a Thai flick. Some interesting cinematography.
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. “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.
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – 150 mins – It’s Autobots® versus Decepticons®, Round 2, in Michael Bay’s film based on Hasbro’s Transformers™ action figures. It’s all about trade names and merchandising! Might not make a lot of difference to you, but the Transformers™ toys have a huge following and a rabid fan base. The plot: SamWitwicky (Shia LaBeouf) again joins with the Autobots® against their sworn enemies, the Decepticons®. It’s super-intense, and bigger and longer than the original. High noise level, smashing images, a loud and relentless score, everyone yelling their lines at high speed – if this is your idea of fun, go.Generally negative reviews: 36/41 out of 100. (Thai-dubbed only/ no English subtitles) At Vista only.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, September 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.
The Begin / Fun Kod Kod: Thai, Drama/ Romance – 90 mins – A new project by Ping Lumprapleung, the director of Khon Hew Hua and Loveaholic.
And looking forward:
Sep 24 – Pandorum: US/Germany, Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – The terrifying story of two crew members stranded on a spacecraft who quickly realize they are not alone. Rated R in the US for strong horror violence and language.
Two astronauts awaken in a hyper-sleep chamber aboard a seemingly abandoned spacecraft. It's pitch black, they are disoriented, and the only sound is a low rumble and creak from the belly of the spacecraft. They can't remember anything - who are they, what is their mission? The only way out of the chamber is a dark and narrow airshaft. Ben Foster, playing the younger of the two, crawls inside, while the other, Dennis Quaid, stays behind for guidance on a radio transmitter. As Foster ventures deeper and deeper into the ship, he begins to uncover a terrifying reality. “Slowly the spacecraft's shocking and deadly secrets come unraveled, and the astronauts realize that the survival of mankind hinges on their actions,” according to Overture Films.
IMDb viewer: As they explore their surroundings, they learn that the ship is teeming with mutants who are super-fast, super-strong, and super-loud. Chase scenes abound as the crew try to avoid being eaten while regaining control over the ship and come to terms with the mission. The film starts off with obvious references to Pitch Black, Alien, and Aliens. Once the mutants appear, however, the film shifts into overdrive, and it becomes Resident Evil, Aliens, and Descent. The mutants all screech like the vampires in the 30 Days of Night classic… .
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 will be showing this on their new Digital 3D in Cinema 3. This one should be a minor delight – the digital and the 3D worth checking out for this one, and even worth spending the extra dough for. Mixed or average reviews: 41/45 out of 100.
Roger Ebert: G-Force is a pleasant, inoffensive 3-D animated farce about a team of superspy guinea pigs who do battle with a mad billionaire who wants to conquer the earth by programming all the home appliances made by his corporation to follow his instructions. It will possibly be enjoyed by children of all ages. The film is non-stop, wall-to wall madcap action.
New York Post,KyleSmith: Thanks to an unexpected twist and a clever motivation lurking in the back story of the super-villain, G-Force has enough going on to more or less maintain grown-up interest, and there's plenty to please the kiddies.