Tickets on sale now for Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, October 8, 2009
… through Wednesday, October 14
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: District 9. Phobia 2. G-Force (at Airport Plaza, for the fun of the 3D Digital). Michael Jackson’s “This Is It!” (Oct 28)
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: Nov 5 to 15. At Vista at Kad Suan Kaew.
World Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 6 to 15.
EU Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 19 to 29.
This is Issue Number 50 of Volume 4 of these listings. I skipped over issues 47 and 48 which were not published as I was in the hospital for two weeks undergoing a quadruple bypass operation. For awhile, aspects of this newsletter will be reduced in scope.
Special note: MichaelJackson’s “This Is It,” a performance tape of rehearsal footage for the show Michael was working on at the time of his death, is being presented world-wide on October 28, for two weeks only. That includes Chiang Mai’s Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza. Tickets are on sale now, at 150 baht. In other cities, many showings are already sold out, but not here.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Fame: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Family/ Musical/ Romance – 107 mins – An updated version of the 1980 musical, which centered on the students of the New York Academy of Performing Arts. Starring Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth. The film is undone by its choppy editing, its incomplete characterizations, and its apparent desire to appeal to the High School Musical generation. Generally unfavorable reviews: 39/45 out of 100.
The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Farber: It's almost laughably bland and watered-down in its desire to appeal to the widest possible audience.
ReelViews, James Berardinelli: A cheesy production with underdeveloped characters that feels more like a TV pilot than a self-contained motion picture.
Roger Ebert: Why bother to remake "Fame" if you don't have clue about why the 1980 movie was special? Why take a touching experience and make it into a shallow exercise? Why begin with a R-rated look at plausible kids with real problems and tame it into a PG-rated after-school special? Why cast actors who are sometimes too old and experienced to play seniors, let alone freshmen?
A sad reflection of the new Hollywood, where material is sanitized and dumbed down for a hypothetical teen market that is way too sophisticated for it. It plays like a dinner theater version of the original.
* The Ugly Truth: US, Comedy/ Romance – 96 mins – 18+ – The consensus seems to be that, despite the best efforts of Gerard Butler and Kathrine Heigl, The Ugly Truth suffers from a weak script that relies on romantic comedy formula, with little charm or comedic payoff. Rated R in the US for sexual content and language. Generally unfavorable reviews: 28/38 out of 100.
Roger Ebert: Katherine Heigl plays Abby, producer of the early morning news on a Sacramento station that is operated like no other station in the history of television. Anchored by a bickering married couple, the broadcast is tanking in the ratings, and so her boss forces Abby to bring in Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), a macho local cable personality whose ideas about the battle of the sexes date back to about Alley Oop. Heigl and Butler are so pleasant in The Ugly Truth that it’s a shame to spoil their party. But toil and try as they do, the comedy bogs down in relentless predictability and the puzzling overuse of naughty words. Once the movies were forbidden to drop the f-word at all, but in this one, it’s only an opening salvo in a potty-mouth bombing run.
The New York Times, Manohla Dargis: A cynical, clumsy, aptly titled attempt to cross the female-oriented romantic comedy with the male-oriented gross-out comedy that is interesting on several levels, none having to do with cinema.
* Whiteout: US/ Canada/ France, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 101 mins – 13+ – Moribund pacing and an uninspired plot. U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), the only one assigned to Antarctica, must investigate a murder there within three days before the Antarctic winter begins. It’s Antarctica's first homicide. Rated R in the US for violence, grisly images, brief strong language, and some nudity. Generally unfavorable reviews: 28/32 out of 100. At Vista only.
Washington Post, Dan Zak: Whiteout is so staggeringly bad that it achieves a kind of transcendent poetry. It's ignorant of how things are in the real world, of what makes a thriller a thriller, of why people seek out entertainment. It's a movie made for an irony-free world populated by impaired moviegoers who are amused simply by shapes and sounds and shiny things -- specifically the shape of Kate Beckinsale's buttocks, the sound of her turning on a hot shower and the gleam of a pickax slicing down at her.
All of these things would be welcome in a movie that also has some sense of grace, surprise, timing, character, terror and style. Whiteout has none of these things. A chimpanzee could've finger-painted a better movie. A chimpanzee, somewhere in the world, probably has.
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,Kyle Smith: 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 – 15+ – 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 – 18+ – 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 – 15+ – I enjoyed this; it’s got a bit of everything in it, and for me in a satisfying mix. Aliens made first contact with Earth 28 years ago. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were nearly-dead survivors of an accident to their space craft, and were rescued by the authorities of South Africa. Rated R in the US for bloody violence and pervasive language. Generally favorable reviews: 80/78 out of 100. Thai-dubbed version at Vista with no English subtitles; in English at Airport Plaza.
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.
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. At Vista only.
The Proposal: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 108 mins – 13+ – 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.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, October 15
Law Abiding Citizen: US, Drama/ Thriller – After his wife and child are murdered by two criminals, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is informed that one of the murderers will be sentenced to death but the other one will get off because of his cooperation with the police. Shelton decides to take justice in his own hands, including getting revenge on the murderers as well as those in the system responsible for setting the one murderer free. District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), one of those who helped set the murderer free, tries to stop Shelton. Rated R in the US for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language.
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 RobertVenditti and illustrator Brett Weldele.
Oct 28 – Michael Jackson’s This Is It: US, Documentary/ Music – A compilation of interviews, rehearsals, and backstage footage of Michael Jackson as he prepared for his series of never-to-be, sold-out shows in London. I’ve seen several short segments, and I think he looks great and moves in a way that is a wonderment. For a list of the musical numbers, go here. The film opens world-wide on October 28, and will be shown here in high-definition Digital format at Airport Plaza only, for two weeks only. Advance tickets on sale now at 150 baht. This is turning into a huge event in many cities throughout the world, though not here in Chiang Mai as yet, but Chiang Mai residents always seem to wait till the last minute. But in Bangkok lines of fans wrapped around the block at box office ticket counters throughout the city, and by the end of the first day it was reported that all tickets for the first showings across Bangkok were sold-out. In London, This Is It sold more than 30,000 tickets in its first 24-hours of sale, setting the biggest ever one-day sales record in the UK.
Kenny Ortega (director of the High School Musical series of films) was both Michael Jackson's creative partner and the director of the stage show, and he is also directing the film. He says, "It will also show Michael as one of the greatest entertainers in the world and one of the industry's most creative minds…I think the footage will show that the process was something that Michael deeply enjoyed and that it was clear he was on his way to another triumph."
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.”
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 did not comply.
The new website redesign for MovieSeer
Major Cineplex – Airport Plaza
Schedule on MovieSeer (newly redesigned; not working too well)
In the large form on the right side, select in the center box first Major Cineplex, and then ChiangMai. If it’s not there, it's because it hasn't been entered yet – try again later. On the next line, make sure “By Theater Group” is checked. Then click “Search”.
Vista – Kadsuankaew
Schedule on MovieSeer (newly redesigned, not working too well)
In the large form on the right side, select in the center box – way at the bottom – “Other Group”, and then “Kadsuankaew”. If it’s not there, it's because it hasn't been entered yet – try again later. On the next line, make sure “By Theater Group” is checked. Then click “Search”.