The world continues to get destroyed! Handsome wolves roam Chiang Mai!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, November 19, 2009
… through Wednesday, November 25
by Thomas Ohlson
EU Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 19 to 29. What we just saw here.
This is Issue Number 3 of Volume 5 of these listings, beginning our fifth year! The first issue came out November 3, 2005. Wow!
Only two movies playing this week. I can’t remember there ever being that few before.
Picture at right shows the handsome wolves of The Twilight Saga: New Moon. They are Actor Chaske Spencer, Alex Meraz, Kiowa Gordon, and Bronson Pelletier – all of Native-American heritage, as is chief wolf TaylorLautner. Among wolf pack job requirements: the ability to work half-naked no matter what the weather in the Vancouver, B.C., area, where the film was shot.
Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
Here in the second film of the series, the supernatural tale continues as the Cullen family flees Forks in order to protect Bella, and the heartbroken high-school senior discovers that vampires aren't the only creatures in town. Realizing that Bella will never be safe as long as he's around, Edward (Robert Pattinson) makes the difficult decision to leave his beloved behind shortly after her 18th birthday.
But as heavy-hearted as Bella may be, her old friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) distracts her from her sorrows. And when Bella encounters a former adversary with a sizable grudge, she's rescued from harm at the last second by pack of enormous, ferocious wolves, all friends of Jacob and all played by muscle-men of Native-American heritage (as is Taylor Lautner).
Bella discovers some of the deep, dark, and frightening secrets of Jacob's tribe, the Quileute (pronounced KWIL-ee-ewt). The Quileute is an actual Native American tribe living in western Washington state in the United States, currently numbering approximately 750. But at the same time as she’s toying with Jacob and his secrets, Bella looks forward to a hoped-for reunion with Edward, even though there may be deadly consequences in that. All very complicated, isn’t it, and we have two more installments to come in the series.
In the story, some members of the Quileute tribe are capable of shape-shifting into wolves, becoming spirit wolves, which are similar to werewolves but quite different in mythology and origin. They are enemies of vampires. Therefore, Jacob is an enemy of Edward. That spells trouble.
But another battle is going on in this film, in the realm of pop culture, as a new teen-girls’ Quileute heartthrob threatens to displace Robert Pattinson (shown below right as Edward) as the persona to squeal over. And that person is of course Taylor Lautner (shown here as Jacob), who is quickly becoming the new swoon-object for teenagers of all ages. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also a wolf, and therefore nearly always naked, or rather always nearly naked.
Rotten Tomatoes: Just about the most surefire hit of the season.
Emanuel Levy: Twilight, the first film based on Meyer’s series, which was released in November 2008, became an instant success. The film adaptation of the unlikely romance between a sensitive high school girl and a century-old vampire brought in over $70 million on its opening weekend, eventually grossing more than $350 million worldwide. The success paved the way for the screen version of the next installment, Twilight Saga: New Moon.
Like the first film, New Moon will divide film critics, and like its predecessor, the picture may be critics-proof. Calculated to a fault, Twilight proved, if nothing else, that it knows how to reach its target audiences. The appearance of the sexy Taylor Lautner, who's becoming a celeb among youths, no doubt should help the commercial prospects of the new film.
In an effort to protect her, Edward decides to leave Bella just after her 18th birthday. He thinks he’s helping her by ending the relationship, failing to realize the torment and the angst involved in such a break-up.
But the timing could not have been worse. Heartbroken, Bella sleepwalks through her senior year at school, feeling numb and alone--until she realizes that she can summon Edward’s image whenever she's in danger.
Upping the ante, New Moon explores the nature and limits of desire of a curious girl, willing to take greater risks, including high-speed motorcycle jaunts. Girls and boys will get a kick out of watching the motorcycle sequences. With the help of Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), her childhood friend and member of the mysterious Quileute tribe, Bella refurbishes a motorbike for her adventures. In the process, Bella gets to know Jacob, who has a supernatural secret of his own. When Bella wanders alone into a meadow, she encounters a deadly attacker, and it takes wolves to save her from a grisly fate.
Central to the new story is the growing friendship between Bella and Jacob Black, a werewolf and natural enemy of the vampires. The stakes are higher, as now it’s not just Bella’s existence that’s in danger, but Edward’s existence as well. By the end, all three protags have learned some life lessons. Bella grows up more rapidly than she had anticipated, and Edward realizes that his knowledge is deficient, that he doesn’t know everything.
Ever since the release of Stephenie Meyer’s first novel, Twilight, in 2005, the books have gained immense popularity and commercial success around the world, and the four books have won multiple awards. As of November 2009, the series has sold over 85 million copies worldwide with translations into at least 38 different languages.
With the widespread appeal of the novels and the huge online fan community, the author and the series' popularity are often compared with J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, and Twilight is described as the "spiritual successor to Harry Potter.” Sometimes the comparison is not so salubrious.
Stephen King: The real difference [between Rowling and Meyer] is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer, and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good. However, it's very clear that she's writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It's exciting and it's thrilling and it's not particularly threatening because it's not overtly sexual.
The Twilight series' popularity and enthusiastic fan following have grabbed media attention and been dubbed "The Twilight Phenomenon" and "a full-blown pop culture phenomenon.” Fans of Meyer are noted to dress up like her characters. They write their own stories about them and post their tales on the Internet. When the author appears at a bookstore, 3,000 people go to meet her. There are Twilight-themed rock bands. The Twilight books have generated a movement that strains the definition of the word “cult.”
Economically, the town of Forks, Washington, the setting for the Twilight series, has improved due to tourism from fans of the books. Forks is visited by an average of 8,000 tourists per month, and has been described as a "Mecca for Twilighters.” Many of the restaurants have Twilight-themed menus and the shops sell Twilight-related items. The town also hosts Twilight tours, which visit places such as the hospital where Carlisle Cullen supposedly works, and a two-story house meant to portray the Swan residence. An annual "Stephenie Meyer Day" is celebrated in Forks on September 13, the birthday of character Bella Swan.
In an interview with USA Today, US president Barack Obama said that he and his ten-year-old daughter, Malia, often bond over the Twilight books.
The books are based on the vampire myth, but Twilight vampires differ in a number of particulars from the general vampire lore. For instance, Twilight vampires have strong piercing teeth rather than fangs; they glitter in sunlight rather than burn; and they can drink both animal blood as well as human blood. Meyer comments that her vampire mythology differs from that of other authors because she wasn't informed about the canon of vampires, saying,
It wasn't until I knew that Twilight would be published that I began to think about whether my vampires were too much the same or too much different from the others. Of course, I was far too invested in my characters at that point to be making changes... so I didn't cut out fangs and coffins and so forth as a way to distinguish my vampires; that's just how they came to me.
According to the author, her books are "about life, not death" and "love, not lust.” Each of the four books in the series was inspired by and loosely based on a different literary classic: Twilight on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, New Moon on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Eclipse on Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, and Breaking Dawn on a second Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Meyer also states that Orson Scott Card and L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series are a big influence on her writing.
A key theme in the series is that of choice and free will. Meyer says that the books are centered around Bella's choice to choose her life on her own, and the Cullen’s choices to abstain from killing rather than follow their temptations: "I really think that's the underlying metaphor of my vampires. It doesn't matter where you're stuck in life or what you think you have to do; you can always choose something else. There's always a different path."
Meyer, a Mormon, acknowledges that her faith has influenced her work. In particular, she says that her characters "tend to think more about where they came from, and where they are going, than might be typical." Meyer also steers her work away from subjects such as sex, despite the romantic nature of the novels. Meyer says that she does not consciously intend her novels to be Mormon-influenced, or to promote the virtues of sexual abstinence and spiritual purity, but admits that her writing is shaped by her values, saying, "I don't think my books are going to be really graphic or dark, because of who I am. There's always going to be a lot of light in my stories."
2012: US/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – 158 mins – Director Roland Emmerich has given movie watchers several apocalyptic films (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow), but they were only warm-ups to the big one, the real end of the world. I guess you’d have to call it a special effects film with a lot of action. It stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor (pronounced "chew-it-tell edge-oh-for"), and Amanda Peet. The film is based on the proposition that the world will end on December 21, 2012, in line with predictions contained in the Long Count calendar of the Mayan peoples, whose calendar systems are acknowledged to be immense in scope and complexity. This doomsday notion has been popularized over the last few years by a number of television programs on The History Channel and The Discovery Channel which give credence to the predictions. Some of the programs summoned as proof the writings of John Major Jenkins (I’ve encouraged you to read his treatise, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date).
But Jenkins has disowned the programs, saying they seriously misrepresent his scholarship. He says of The History Channel program, “It’s 45 minutes of unabashed doomsday hype and the worst kind of inane sensationalism. … It’s error-riddled and a flagrant attempt at fear-mongering.” So much for the intellectual underpinnings of the film.
The whole thing is sham, as if anyone cares. Basically it’s just an excuse to see things get destroyed. You have to wonder a bit about what bugs director Emmerich, because he seems to take particularly gleeful aim at the US (what other director has destroyed the White House in his films not once but now twice?) and Catholicism (he goes out of his way to detail the collapse of St. Peter's and Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue), while no other religion is seen to suffer a scratch.
Mixed or average reviews: 49/50 out of 100.
Thai-dubbed versions as well as English versions are being shown, plus Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza has four showings a day of a Digital copy of a film print at 190 baht for regular seats.
Catholic Herald: Emmerich stomps on St Peter's
The German director Roland Emmerich shows a special enthusiasm for imaginative destruction of Christian monuments in his new film, 2012. He avoided demolishing Islamic landmarks such as Mecca for fear of a fatwa, so he says. Instead he shows the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio toppling pathetically off its pedestal on the Corcovado mountain, and St. Peter's spectacularly obliterated in an earthquake, crushing a crowd of helpless pilgrims. We see cardinals kneeling in the Sistine Chapel as above them a fissure splits the finger of God in Michelangelo's ceiling before the whole building collapses into dust and rubble.
Fantastique: In the disaster movie 2012, director Roland Emmerich destroys several famous landmarks including some of a religious nature such as St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and the enormous statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro.
There is however one landmark that was off-limits in the movie: The Kaaba which, according to Wikipedia, is "the most sacred site in Islam."
According to the online Encyclopaedia the Kaaba is a cuboidal building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia that actually predates Islam. "All Muslims around the world face the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are," Wikipedia continues. "One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every capable Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime."
The director admitted in an interview with scifiwire.com that he did actually consider destroying it onscreen, but said that his co-writer Harald Kloser told him that "I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie."
"And he was right," Emmerich said in the same interview. "We have to all, in the western world, think about this. You can actually let Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have ... a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it's just something which I kind of didn't [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out."
(A fatwa in the Islamic faith is a religious opinion concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. Western media frequently uses the term incorrectly to specifically mean an Islamic law pronouncing a death sentence upon someone who is considered an infidel or a blasphemer. The most famous example of "fatwa" is probably the death sentence pronounced on Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses, by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. Thanks, Wikipedia!)
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, November 26
Julie & Julia: US, Biography/ Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 123 mins – Meryl Streep gives a charismatic performance as Julia Child, and Amy Adams is Julie Powell in writer-director Nora Ephron’s adaptation of two bestselling memoirs: Powell’s Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme. “Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends...until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness, and butter, anything is possible.” Generally favorable reviews: 66/67 out of 100.
Disney’s A Christmas Carol: US, Animation/ Drama/ Family/ Fantasy – 96 mins – Starring Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Bob Hoskins. Director Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express) continues to work his holiday magic. This 3-D adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic uses the motion capture technology previously seen in the filmmaker's Beowulf. Mixed or average reviews: 55/56 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is one of literature's most haunting morality tales -- and one of the most adapted. Critics are largely split on two key aspects of Robert Zemeckis' motion-capture version starring Jim Carrey: whether it honors the, ahem, spirit of Dickens' classic, and whether the motion-capture technology is aesthetically appealing. No need to rehash the plot; if you've never heard the tale of mean ol' Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey) and his long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman), get thee to a library immediately. While some find Zemeckis' live action/animation hybrid an enchanting way of updating a seasonal classic, others feel the visuals bog down the classic tale with an overabundance of empty action.
Ninja Assassin: US/ Germany, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – 99 mins – A young ninja (Korean superstar Rain) turns his back on the orphanage that raised him, leading to a confrontation with a fellow ninja from the clan. Rated R in the US for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language.
Warner Bros: “Raizo (Rain) is one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them…and vanishes. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge. In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti has stumbled upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of untraceable assassins from the Far East. Defying the orders of her superior, Ryan Maslow, Mika digs into top secret agency files to learn the truth behind the murders. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers, led by the lethal Takeshi, to silence her forever. Raizo saves Mika from her attackers, but he knows that the Clan will not rest until they are both eliminated. Now, entangled in a deadly game of cat and mouse through the streets of Europe, Raizo and Mika must trust one another if they hope to survive…and finally bring down the elusive Ozunu Clan.”
Variety, Rob Nelson: Seemingly made to capitalize on a dubious CG innovation -- namely, the slicing of bodies in half by whizzing five-pointed stars -- Ninja Assassin has little else to recommend it; unless the viewer is easily delighted by ultraviolence for its own sake, this thinly plotted movie about a young ninja's revenge against his cruel trainers will disappoint.
Korean pop star Rain conjures only a mild drizzle. Though Ninja Assassin is implausible on countless levels, Raizo's training to feel nothing at least gels with Rain's ability to emote nothing.
The film's raison d'etre is its blood-soaked combination of physical stunts and digital trickery, the latter favored to a fault. While not remotely on par with the Wachowskis' The Matrix, the ridiculous torrent of flying blades and flayed flesh here does appear unique in technological terms, and certainly pushes the film’s R rating to its limits.
Indeed, such is the film's level of insinuated gore that the frustratingly dark texture of many fight-scene shots can perhaps be explained by a post-production bid to avoid an NC-17. Whatever the case, the shadowy action is too often incomprehensible, except in the general sense that heads, limbs, and torsos are being severed in massive numbers.
Yom Pee Poa / โยมผีพ่อ: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 90 mins – A mischievous orphan becomes a young monk in a temple where the ghost of his father appears to ask him for help.
And looking forward:
Dec 3 – Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant: US, Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – 108 mins – A young boy named Darren Shan meets a mysterious man at a freak show who turns out to be a Vampire. After a series of events Darren must leave his normal life and go on the road with the Cirque Du Freak and become a Vampire. Mixed or average reviews: 43/39 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Vampires are all the rage these days, so it makes sense that the 12-volume Cirque du Freak book series would be adapted for the silver screen. However, with The Vampire's Assistant, critics aren't exactly hailing the birth of a franchise. Chris Massoglia stars as a young man who mistakenly ends a truce in a 200-year-old vampire war; becoming a half-vampire means "dying" to his friends and family and plunging into the bloodsucking world. The pundits say The Vampire's Assistant is overstuffed and scattershot, uneasily mixing scares and laughs while leaving its characters underdeveloped.
Dec 17 – Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – From director James Cameron, his 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."
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 multilayered, 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.”
Feb 4, 2010 – The Lovely Bones: US/ UK/ New Zealand, Crime/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – What a great name for a film! There’s a poster for this up at Vista, and quite a few people have stopped me to ask what this movie is about, and what do I know about it. Well, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, and Saoirse Ronan (from Atonement). And it’s directed by Peter Jackson. So far so good, right?
Although Peter Jackson has become identified with big-budget epics like the "Lord of the Ring" movies and his King Kong remake, actually he has his roots in supernatural thrillers and has done a number of dark dramas, like his 1994 Heavenly Creatures, which earned him the respect of cineastes worldwide. Here he directs an adaptation of American writer AliceSebold'spopular novel The Lovely Bones – a critically acclaimed best-seller. The adaptation was written by Peter Jackson himself, along with his wife and co-producer Fran Walsh, and New Zealand screenwriter Philippa Boyens. Crucially, much of the story is narrated from the afterlife, after 14-year old Susie Salmon is raped and dismembered. She looks down from heaven on both her parents (played by Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) and her murderer. It's a morality tale as Salmon struggles to balance emotions of vengeance for her killer and sympathy for her family.
I have to say that the visuals in the afterlife are amazing. Note, for example, the animals in this picture, if you can find them. The Lovely Bones is not a murder mystery. You know right from the beginning who gets murdered and who did it. Rather, it’s an interesting look at death, afterlife, and how all this affects loved ones. While there are some moments of suspense, there are no true "plot twists" or "big reveals" as pertains to the murder. But there are several unexpected turns in the story that relate to Susie's death that make the book treasured by many readers. Anticipation is high for Peter Jackson’s treatment.
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.