Revised Saturday, November 28.
Julia Child a no-show, world destruction continues!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, November 26, 2009
… through Wednesday, December 2
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bet: Disney's A Christmas Carol
EU Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 19 to 29. A couple days more of what we just saw here.
This is Issue Number 4 of Volume 5 of these listings, beginning our fifth year! The first issue came out November 3, 2005. One of the “best things that happened to Chiang Mai: Thomas Ohlson’s comprehensive current cinema movie list.” [City Life, Jeremy Samuelson, Dec. 2008]
Julie & Julia didn’t show up this week, though promised. A big disappointment for me.
Picture at right shows Korean pop-star Rain as the Ninja Assassin.
Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Disney’s A Christmas Carol: US, Animation/ Drama/ Family/ Fantasy – 96 mins – Brilliant! Don’t miss it if you at all like animation. Not the warm, comforting film you might expect from
It is, in fact, so faithful to the original text that it is a bit difficult to follow at times, since the vocabulary and the grammar are as used by Dickens; even the
The film for the most part is leisurely presented and takes its time; some of the long passages of silence are truly scary. The film in general has a spooky stillness about it, broken up now and again by passages of action to please the kiddies and the backers.
But talking about kiddies, it is so frightening, horrifying, and just plain scary at times that I question whether kids under 10 should be taken. Be forewarned.
It’s a remarkable piece of acting for Carrey. I also have to mention the brilliant use of music, which I thought was exceptionally apt and expressive throughout, and which rises to a marvelously rousing crescendo during the closing credits.
Roger Ebert: When I was small, this movie would have scared the living ectoplasm out of me.
Entertainment Weekly: A marvelous and touching yuletide toy of a movie, and the miracle is that it goes right back to the gilded Victorian spirit of those black-and-white [Christmas Carol] films of yore. From the hypnotic opening shot, which seems to travel through every nook and cranny of London without a cut, Zemeckis signals that he's made a bold technical leap: The faces are now fully expressive, the streets and buildings so real you could touch them. Ebenezer, with his drooping flesh and coldly fearful eyes, is no caricature — Carrey plays him with scolding sharpness and a plummy deep melancholy — and his journey unfolds with a classicism that is only enhanced by Zemeckis' spangly visual flamboyance. He makes the ghost of Marley, for instance, a figure of true terror.
New York Times: “A Christmas Carol” — the source material — remains among the most moving works of holiday literature, and Mr.Zemeckis has remained true to its finest sentiments. He is an innovator, but his traditionalism is what makes this movie work.
Slate: The single best filmed version of A Christmas Carol, the 1951 Scrooge starring Alastair Sim, is more leisurely and melancholic than this punchy 88-minute retelling. But in some respects, they're surprisingly similar. Both treat the tale more as a ghost story than a holiday frolic—and don't skimp on the spooky bits. And both retain Dickens' concern with social injustice, preserving the scene in which the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals the allegorical figures of Ignorance and Want crouched beneath his robe.
Nearly every line of dialogue in this adaptation of A Christmas Carol comes directly from the story. Most incongruously for a Disney holiday release that's timed to sweep family crowds into the theater, this Christmas Carol remembers that its much-recycled source material is less a children's story than a fairytale for the middle-aged. The series of affects Scrooge goes through in the course of that Christmas Eve—the sharp pain of nostalgia, the regret for irreversible mistakes, the sudden realization that life is shorter than one thought—these are not the emotions of the young. How they made it into this Disney adaptation unprettified is a Christmas miracle in itself.
* Ninja Assassin: US/ Germany, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – 99 mins – A young ninja turns his back on the orphanage that raised him, leading to a confrontation with a fellow ninja from the clan. Blood-soaked, but there's a cathartic value to all the bloodletting. Rated R in the US for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language. Review scores have dropped - now "generally unfavorable" reviews: 34/44 out of 100.
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.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Overly serious and incomprehensibly edited, Ninja Assassin fails to live up to the promise of its title. Critics feel that the film's thrills aren't just cheap - they're low-grade. The pundits say the plot and characters are forgettable, but the big problem is that director James McTeigue edits the fight scenes down to the bone, so it's often difficult to tell what's happening.
Washington Post: The fight sequences in Ninja Assassin feature buckets of blood and a slew of slow-motion acrobatics. Ten minutes after you leave the movie, all the battles will have blended in your memory into a ceaseless muddle of sliced-off appendages, jets of blood splashing artfully on walls, gurgling screams and flashing swords. The only exception is a quick, dramatic mano a mano between Raizo and another ninja in a darkened apartment, the two frightening creatures illuminated only by the agent's shaking flashlight. It's a rare moment of visual wit in a movie that provides plenty of jolts but precious little pleasure.
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.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon: US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Romance/ Thriller – 130 mins – It’s a phenomenon, all right: in the US it had the biggest opening weekend of 2009, estimated at an astounding $142.8 million in the US, the third highest-grossing opening behind only The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3.
These figures are reported by the industry tracker, Box Office Mojo, which further says that on its opening day, New Moon shattered the records for US opening day and midnight showings, thanks to the rush of its fervent fan base. “On each day of the weekend, New Moon essentially doubled the grosses of Twilight, which is an incredible feat for a sequel, especially when the first movie was already extremely popular. The distributor’s exit polling in the US indicated that 80 percent of the audience was female and 50 percent was under 21 years old, which means the sequel brought in more female and younger viewers than the first Twilight.”
Internationally, New Moon pulled in an estimated $132.1 million from 25 foreign territories. Together with the US, its worldwide opening was an amazing $274.9 million, ranking as the seventh highest-grossing opening weekend of all time.
The third movie in the franchise, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, already completed, is scheduled for June 30 of next year, or just seven months from now.
Yes, a phenomenon, but it’s not for me; I was bored. It’s for teenaged girls with raging hormones who want romance, not sex – very safe romance, with just the vaguest threat of titillating danger. Of the three main characters, I despise two. Both Bella played by Kristen Stewart, and Edward played by Robert Pattinson, I find boring, unappetizing, profoundly uninteresting characters, played by two people who based on what is seen here cannot act. Also, a particular bane of mine, there’s sloppy speech work done by both -- they cannot be understood most of the time, partly because they don’t enunciate, partly because the sound technicians are sloppy and messing up on the job. The two actors take forever to say anything, and when it finally gets said, it isn’t worth the wait. So maybe it’s actually a blessing that you generally can’t understand what they’re saying. The dialogue is particularly unintelligible at the very important (in the film’s terms) red shirt rally in Italy.
I think Bella is a black hole, sucking the life out of whatever scene she’s in. She’s everything you hate about a pouty and willful teenage girl – indeed she is so awfully behaved as to give teenaged girls a bad name. And despite the multitudes of girls who think Robert Pattinson is a dreamboat, I think he’s really quite ugly.
The third of the three main characters, on the other hand, is great! You can understand him, he’s interesting, he’s terribly good-looking, indeed a “dreamboat.”
Kristen Stewart - what a terrible actress! She is expressionless! However, maybe it’s just me. The Variety reviewer thought she was great: “Kristen Stewart is the heart and soul of the film – she gives both weight and depth to dialogue ("You're just warm. You're like your own sun") that would sound like typical chick-lit blather in the mouth of a less engaging actress, and she makes Bella's psychological wounds seem like the real deal.” And here’s another: “Kristen Stewart brings such raw vulnerability to the screen that she makes moping attractive.” Some people think there’s a lack of sparkle in the relationships, some people think the relationships are deeply-felt, simmering, and meaningful. So I have to be careful with my disdain, because great numbers of people think quite differently than I, and it’s really just a matter of taste.
Rotten Tomatoes: Just about the most surefire hit of the season.
Emanuel Levy: 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.
Stephen King: 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.
Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has scripted three "Twilight" films so far (the third "Twilight Saga: Eclipse," directed by David Slade, completed shooting a month ago). She describes her intention as follows: "You want to take people on an emotional ride, not necessarily an intellectual one," she says. "There has to be a journey. So it's really a coming-of-age story - it's about Bella becoming a stronger person. And by the end she has a life as she's created it for herself. The heartbreak is the whole idea of 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' "
For an in depth discussion, see last week’s issue. The bottom line is: if you’re a teenaged girl with raging hormones, you’ll love it!
Mixed or average reviews: 46/47 out of 100. Vista has only a Thai-dubbed version.
2012: US/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – 158 mins – The end of the world, as only Director Roland Emmerich can show it. Very well done indeed. The director’s had lots of practice. A Thai-dubbed version is available at both locations. Mixed or average reviews: 49/50 out of 100.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, December 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.
Couples Retreat: US, Comedy – 113 mins – A comedy centered around four couples who settle into a tropical-island resort for a vacation. While one of the couples is there to work on their marriage, the others fail to realize that participation in the resort's therapy sessions is not optional. Generally unfavorable reviews: 23/36 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Despite a talented cast and some reliably pleasant interplay between Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, Couples Retreat leaves viewers stranded in an arid, mirthless comedy.
Yam Yasothon 2 / Yam Ya-So-Thorn 2: Thai, Comedy – 90 mins – Thai comedy with popular comedian Mum Jokmok.
Wise Kwai: Mum Jokmok's Yam Yasothon character moves from reluctant lover to shotgun-toting dad for Yam Yasothon 2.After a brief delay earlier this year due to a fatal lightning strike on the location, Yam Yasothon 2 is on target for a December 3 release for the long weekend in celebration of His Majesty the King's birthday.
A sequel to 2005's country comedy, Yam Yasothon 2 promises more eye-scaldingly colorful outfits and a double-barrel load of down-home country humor. Janet Khiew is back as Yam's amorous wife Juei, with Mum's real-life daughter, Em Busarakam Wongkamlao, and son Mick Paytai joining the cast. There's also "Dim" Harin Suthamjaras from the rock group Tattoo Color as the romantic lead, and comedienne "Tookie" Sudarat Butrprom is in there as well. Looks like fun.
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. 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.
Feb 11, 2010 – Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: Canada/ US, Fantasy/ Comedy – It's the 21st century, but the gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters have walked out of the pages of high school student Percy Jackson's Greek mythology texts and into his life. And they're not happy: Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Even more troubling is the sudden disappearance of Percy's mother. As Percy finds himself caught between angry and battling gods, he and his friends embark on a cross-country adventure to catch the true lightning thief, save Percy's mom, and unravel a mystery more powerful than the gods themselves.
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.