Back, but somewhat diminished!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, October 1, 2009
… through Wednesday, October 7
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: District 9. Phobia 2. G-Force (at Airport Plaza, for the fun of the 3D Digital).
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 49 of Volume 4 of these listings. I’m skipping over issues 47 and 48 which were not published as I was in the hospital during the last two weeks undergoing what was supposed to be angioplasty (stent placement), but once they took a took at my falling-apart heart, they withdrew, consulted a couple of days, and then did a quadruple bypass operation. For awhile this newsletter will be reduced in scope. I think I’ve been warned by my body to slow down.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* 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 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.
* Oh My Ghosts! / Hortaewtak 2 / Hor Taew Taek Haek Krajerng / หอแต๋วแตกแหกกระเจิง: Thai, Comedy/ Horror – 90 mins – Usual Thai comedy featuring popular Thai comedians. Three companions in drag, tired of being frightened by horrible ghosts that haunt their dorm, summon a spirit to help them get rid of them.
* Sorority Row: US, Horror/ Thriller – 101 mins – A remake of The House on Sorority Row (1983). A group of sorority sisters try to cover up the death of their house-sister after a prank gone wrong, only to be stalked by a serial killer. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, some sexuality/ nudity and partying. (!) Generally unfavorable reviews: 24/25 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Though it's slick and stylish, Sorority Row offers nothing new to the slasher genre and misses the mark both in its attempts at humor and thrills.
District 9: South Africa/ New Zealand, Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Action/ Thriller – 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. Generally favorable reviews: 80/78 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.
Dreamaholic / Fun Kod Kod / The Begin: Thai, Drama/ Romance – 90 mins – A new project by Ping Lumprapleung, the director of Khon Hew Hua and Loveaholic.
Wise Kwai: Ping Lumprapleung, the multi-talented comedian and performance artist who directed the 2006 romantic comedy-drama Loveaholic, is back with another cute-looking and sentimental yarn with Dreamaholic. This time, instead of letting comedian "Nose" Udom Taepanich stand in for him, as he did in Loveaholic, Ping has gone ahead and played the lead role himself, portraying an crinkly-eyed street performer who somehow develops a relationship with a popular and attractive actress who is perhaps half his age.
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 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 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 joins 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, Banjong Pisanthanakun, directed this laugh-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 known 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.
Pandorum: US/ Germany, Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – The story of two crew members stranded on a spacecraft who quickly realize they are not alone. Two astronauts awaken in a sleep chamber aboard a seemingly abandoned spacecraft. They can't remember anything - who are they, what is their mission? Rated R in the US for strong horror violence and language. Generally unfavorable reviews: 33/43 out of 100.
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 the30 Days of Night classic….
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.
And looking forward:
Oct 22 – Surrogates: US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 104 mins – Previews look fascinating to me for this one. 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.
Nov 12 – 2012: US/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Director Roland Emmerich has given movie watchers several apocalyptic films in the past in Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, and he offers another look at the end of the world in 2012. This action film stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Amanda Peet. The film proves conclusively that the world will end on December 21, 2012, so let’s hope the studio recoups its investment before then. It’s the Mayan Long Count calendar that contains the proof, and it’s irrefutable. Don’t make any plans for Christmas that year! For further information, read John Major Jenkins, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date (1998).
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.”
Dec 24 – Sherlock Holmes: US/ UK/ Australia, Action/ Adventure/ Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – Detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his stalwart partner Watson (Jude Law) engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England. This new Holmes is rougher, more emotionally multi-layered, more inclined to run with his clothing askew, covered in bruises and smudges of dirt and blood. He falls into modern-style funks between cases, lying on the sofa, suffused with anomie, unshaven and unkempt, surrounded by a pile of debris. But when he applies himself, Holmes is as fast with his body — he is a bare-knuckle boxer, a crack shot, and an expert swordsman — as he is with his mind. But … no cocaine. Says the director Guy Ritchie, “It’s a family picture.”
Mar 4, 2010 – Alice in Wonderland: US, Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy– I am looking forward to this one! Seems to me like a perfect marriage between director Tim Burton and the Lewis Carroll classic. The film stars frequent Burton collaborator Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Mia Wasikowska as Alice, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. Also with Helena Bonham-Carter, Crispin Glover, Alan Rickman.