Your best bet is still A Christmas Carol!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, December 10, 2009
… through Wednesday, December 16
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: A Christmas Carol. Vinyan.
This is Issue Number 6 of Volume 5 of these listings, into 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]
Picture above shows Scrooge and Marley, from A Christmas Carol.
Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Vinyan: France/ Belgium/ UK/ Australia, Drama/ Horror/ Thriller – 96 mins – Six months after losing her only child in the Asian tsunami, a mother (Emmanuelle Béart) is convinced she sees him in a film about orphans living in the jungles of Burma. Her skeptical husband (Rufus Sewell) agrees to join her search...but their venture finds them stranded in the jungle under siege from a vicious gang of feral children. It’s a chilling and dark tale. Rated R in the US for some disturbing violent content, sexuality/nudity, and language. 15+ in Thailand. Film was shot in Thailand; in English and Thai. Mixed or average reviews: 60 out of 100. At Vista only.
Sky Movies, Tim Evans: The agonies of losing a child are amplified a thousand times in this accomplished psychological horror thriller from Belgian director Fabrice du Welz.
A grieving couple has opted to stay on Thailand after the freak 2004 tsunami washed away their only child six months before. During a charity do the mother thinks she glimpses her missing son on a grainy video shot by volunteer workers helping rebuild communities in the remote Thai-Burmese border area. Fatally obsessed, she persuades her reluctant husband to embark on a rescue mission which means putting their trust in a charismatic fixer.
Du Welz sustains a corrosive atmosphere of impending dread as the couple move from the seedy, fluorescent lit girlie bars of Phuket to the jungle, a hostile world whose cruel ways are even beyond the reckoning of their duplicitous guide. Mood is the key here with a threatening score perfectly complemented by gloomy river vistas and dripping jungle canopies a million miles away from the sunlit brochures of the tourism industry. Pretty soon the couple has completely lost their emotional bearings as they stumble ever deeper into the jungle and into the lair of a feral foe that makes a terrifying sort of sense.
It's Don't Look Now meets Heart of Darkness.
Little White Lies, Anton Bitel: The films of Fabrice Du Welz occupy an uneasy borderline that makes them difficult to pin down (and no doubt even more difficult to market). His striking 2004 debut Calvaire, for example, used elements familiar from Deliverance-style survival horror to create a mythic meditation on performance and passion. His next film, Vinyan, turns a bare-bones ghost story into a reverie on grief, anguish and madness.
Like Nicolas Roeg’sDon’t Look Now, JuanAntonioBayona’s The Orphanage, or Larsvon Trier’s Antichrist, Du Welz’s film follows a married couple struggling to come to terms with the loss of a child. But instead of retreating to Venice, lighthouse or woodland cabin to face their recriminatory guilt and fear, Jeanne and Paul Belhmer (Emmanuelle Béart, Rufus Sewell) search for their son Joshua, who vanished in the 2005 tsunami, across the Thai border in Burma. They journey into a Conradian jungle where they themselves – and we, too – become lost (perhaps forever) to delusion and despair.
From its opening sequence of bubbles and blood right through to the ritualized savagery of its close, Vinyan remains an abstract and ambiguous entity. Certainly the world in which it is set is a very real South East Asia where lives can be swept away in an instant, and where children are often neglected, exploited or commodified. But it is also a psychological landscape, where dreams and visions mingle with the waking experience, and where everything – whether urban demimondes or mist-shrouded rivers or the deepest, darkest jungle – takes on a disorienting quality that reflects the main characters’ crumbling state of mind.
Thaksin Gao (Petch Osathanugrah), the well-mannered Triad leader who serves as cross-border guide to the grieving couple, tells Jeanne that ‘vinyan’ is a local word for the confused, angry spirit of someone who has died a bad death and “does not know where to go or what to do.” By the end, it will not be clear whether the title refers to Joshua, his parents, or any of the other lost souls encountered on their journey – but Du Welz has crafted an eerie, intense odyssey of marital and mental breakdown, aided by the moodily desaturated cinematography of Benoît Debie, and some extraordinarily haunting sound design. Without resorting to cheap frights or bogeymen, Vinyan locates its horror in the human heart of darkness.
Amazon reviewer: A dismal, overwhelming sense of hopelessness resonates through every frame of this riveting mind-bender. This movie might put your average gorehound to sleep, as the blood and guts spewage is pretty non-existent. But Vinyan has an unbelievably black tone, and is such a disturbing descent into madness that it will leave you feeling completely drained and lifeless.
The two stars do a phenomenal job, very controlled and convincing. Emmanuelle Béart especially, she completely delves into this role and is totally fearless. The final scene is so unbelievably shocking, I still can't fathom her putting herself through it. The MPAA no doubt would disapprove.
Belgian director Fabrice du Welz does an amazing job with his first English-dialogue film. This isn't a story that will have a broad appeal, but he poured his heart into it, and he doesn't fall into the temptation of adding cheap scares to appease the casual moviegoers. Some might have issues with the pacing.
A remarkably artistic and creepy cinematic experience, destined for cult status.
Amazon reviewer: if you can enjoy ambiguity and mystery and believe that great films don't necessarily need to make sense as long as they FEEL right, then there is a lot to enjoy in this harrowing journey called Vinyan.
Brilliant cinematography, sound design, & editing really immerse the viewer in the foreign land of Southeast Asia. And the two leads are outstanding as their characters enter their own Heart of Darkness.
And Heart of Darkness is the best way to put it. The content may be quite different, but this film reminded me a lot of Apocalypse Now.
Like some of the best films, there's a lot going on just under the surface here...comments on parenthood, tribal natures, and the relationships between the 1st and 3rd worlds. What exactly the film has to say is elusive...your fingertips can just barely clutch its meaning before it slips from your grasp. And so it demands repeated viewings, discussion, and argument.
This is what I think make a good film...if you do too, check out Vinyan.
* Pai in Love / ปายอินเลิฟ: Thai, Romance/ Comedy – 90 mins – Thai ensemble romantic comedy of six short films centered about a group of friends who all happen to take a winter vacation to the same place – Pai, northern Thailand's hippie retreat. Somehow, in that small province, they all find the true meaning of love. Well, why not? At Airport Plaza only, and unfortunately only in Thai, with no English subtitles.
One of the short films, “Pai Postcard,” is directed by Tanit Jitnukul, who directed the marvelous film Samchuk released earlier this year; I was very impressed by that film, and am very fond of it. I was looking forward to seeing this segment, but the film is only in Thai.
Wise Kwai: Thai filmmakers have taken Paris, je t'aime and New York, I Love You to heart it seems. Now there's Pai in Love, an anthology of six short films set in Pai, a tiny town in the mountains of northern Thailand that is a draw for foreign backpackers and Thai hipsters. The directors are Prachya Pinkaew, Thanit Jitnukul and Sakchai Deenan (Sabaidee Luang Prabang), plus Dunyasit Niyomkul (Cadaver), Bandit Tongdee (Mercury Man), Tittipong Chaisatìdee and actress Bongkot Kongmalai, making her directorial debut.
* New York, I Love You: France/ US, Drama/ Romance – 103 mins – An anthology film joining several love stories set in one of the most loved (!?) cities of the world, New York. Rated R in the US for language and sexual content. Mixed or average reviews: 49/51 out of 100. (Editorial question mark mine; I’m from New York City.) At Vista/ Kadsuankaew only.
Starring (hold on to your hats!) (listed alphabetically) Kevin Bacon (cut!), Justin Bartha, Maggie Q, Orlando Bloom, Chris Cooper, Drea de Matteo, Eddie D'vir, James Caan, Carla Gugino (cut!), Ethan Hawke, John Hurt, Hayden Christensen, Irfan Khan, Shia LaBeouf, Cloris Leachman, Blake Lively, Natalie Portman, Rachel Bilson, Shu Qi, Julie Christie, Christina Ricci, Olivia Thirlby, Goran Visnjic (cut!), Eli Wallach, Saul Williams, Robin Wright Penn, Anton Yelchin, Burt Young, Ugur Yucel.
To right: Shia LaBeouf
And directed by Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, ShunjiIwai, Jiang Wen, Shekhar Kapur, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner, Randall Balsmeyer.
Roger Ebert: Look at the cast and credits to form an idea of the directors and actors at work here. By its nature, New York, I Love You can't add up. It remains the sum of its parts. If one isn't working for you, wait a few minutes, here comes another one.
The rules: No more than two days' shooting time. One week of editing. An eight-minute time limit. Ten directors, and one more to consider the 10 short films and create transitions. New York, I Love You is the second installment in an ambitious project that began with Paris, je t'aime (2006), an anthology with 13 directors. Rio is said to be next.
Inevitably, the film is a jumble sale, but you can make some nice discoveries. It's not one of those films where all the separate characters come together at the end in a miraculous coincidence, although a few people do turn up, still as themselves, in one another's segments.
IMDb: The film was first shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2008 and was two segments longer. One of the segments was black and white, directed by Scarlett Johansson (another directorial debut) and starred Kevin Bacon. The other was made by Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev and featured Carla Gugino, Goran Visnjic and Nicholas Purcell. The film was re-edited later to cut the two segments.
The various filmmakers were asked to adhere to three guidelines: They had only 24 hours to shoot, a week to edit, and needed to give the sense of a particular neighborhood.
New York Post, Lou Lumenick: When New York, I Love You was previewed in Toronto a year ago, there were two additional segments that have since been cut. So you'll have to wait for the DVD to see just how bad Scarlett Johansson's directing debut is.
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-Thon 2 / Hello Yasothorn 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.
Disney’s A Christmas Carol: US, Animation/ Drama/ Family/ Fantasy – 96 mins – Starring Jim Carrey, directed by Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express, Beowulf) using his motion capture technology.
Brilliant! Don’t miss it if you at all like animation. This is your last chance before the film bows out of the 3D cinema to make way for Avatar next week.
Not all of it warm and comforting as you might expect from Disney, most is instead a dark and grim tale, and a faithful recreation of the Charles Dickens classic – one of literature's most haunting morality tales. Mixed or average reviews, 55/57 out of 100, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. Shown in 3D, which in this case is a marvel, and only at Airport Plaza. (There are higher prices for the 3D.)
Slate: Nearly every line of dialogue in this adaptation of A Christmas Carol comes directly from the story.
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. Seems to me essentially a blood-soaked combination of physical stunts and digital trickery, with the shyly expressive Korean pop star Rain, one of People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" in 2007. Not recommended, unless you’re easily delighted by ultraviolence for its own sake. Otherwise, this thinly plotted movie with low-grade thrills about a young ninja's revenge against his cruel trainers will disappoint. I found the shadowy action too often incomprehensible, except in the general sense that heads, limbs, and torsos are being severed in massive numbers. 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. But, to be honest, I guess there's a cathartic value to all the bloodletting. Rated R in the US for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language. 18+ in Thailand. Review scores have dropped - now "generally unfavorable" reviews: 34/44 out of 100.
Yes, it’s a phenomenon, all right, but it’s not for me; I was fairly-well 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. But remember, vast numbers of people like this movie. It’s really just a matter of taste.
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.
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.
If you’re a teenaged girl with raging hormones, it will speak to you! Mixed or average reviews: 44/47 out of 100. It has departed Vista/ Kadsuankaew, and is at Airport Plaza only.
The third movie in the series, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, is already completed, and is scheduled to arrive here June 30 of next year, or just seven months from now. Can’t you just hardly wait?
2012: US/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – 158 mins – The end of (almost) the whole world, as only Director Roland Emmerich can show it, and very well done indeed. The director’s had lots of practice. A Thai-dubbed version only at Vista/ Kadsuankaew, English only at Airport Plaza. Mixed or average reviews: 49/50 out of 100.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, December 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. It’s reported “the movie is 40% live action and 60% photo-realistic CGI. A lot of motion capture technology was used for the CGI scenes.” Motion capture technology is the technology used throughout Disney’s A Christmas Carol.
Bodyguards and Assassins / Shi yue wei cheng / 十月圍城: China, Action/ Drama/ History – In Mandarin – The film concerns efforts by a group of martial artists to protect Dr. Sun Yat-sen who is popularly referred as the Father of Modern China, from an assassination attempt while visiting Hong Kong to raise funds at the beginning of the 20th century. Directed by Teddy Chan. A 2009 Chinese action/drama film featuring an all-star cast including Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, and Nicholas Tse. It tells the story of a group of bodyguards protecting Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) from assassins in 1905 Hong Kong.
Dec 24– Sherlock Holmes: US/ UK/ Australia, Action/ Adventure/ Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – A new take on the Holmes canon: Sherlock Holmes as an action figure! Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes and Jude Law his stalwart partner Watson.
Dec 24 – The Storm Warriors 2 / Storm Riders 2: The Storm Warriors / Fung wan II / 风云II: Hong Kong, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy – A film produced and directed by the twins Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, and this is cause for excitement! These two directed one of my favorite Asian films, the 2006 Re-cycle, a lovely spooky and weird concoction. The Storm Warriors, described as a martial arts/wuxia film, is being hailed as the first Chinese film to extensively use bluescreen. The film was shot entirely in three studios in Bangkok.
It is the second live-action film adaptation of screenwriter Ma Wing-Shing's popular Chinese manhua Fung Wan, following the 1998 film The Storm Riders. The Pangs have stated that the film is not a direct sequel to The Storm Riders, but more of a stand-alone film with a separate storyline. Two of the main actors in the earlier film, Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok, shown in the poster here, reprise their roles as Wind and Cloud, who this time find themselves up against Lord Godless, a ruthless Japanese warlord bent on invading China. A third installment for the series is in the works.
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.