Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, December 17, 2009
… through Wednesday, December 23
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bet: Avatar.
This is Issue Number 7 of Volume 5 of these listings, into our fifth year! The first issue came out November 3, 2005.
Picture at right shows our hero Avatar gaining life
in the film you can’t escape this week.
Pai in Love is now being shown at Vista with English subtitles – previously it was only Thai-dubbed at Airport Plaza. Worth checking out now.
Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays, except for premium films.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Avatar: US, Action/Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 162 mins – 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. A film of universal appeal that just about everyone who ever goes to the movies will need to see. In Englishand Na'vi dialogue, with English and Thai subtitles as needed. Early reviews: Universal acclaim: 82/74 out of 100. In 3D in Cinema 3 at Airport Plaza, and 2D elsewhere there and at Vista.
I won’t be seeing this until today, so until then I have to quote.
Rotten Tomatoes: It's no secret that Cameron's last directorial effort, Titanic, was nothing short of an unprecedented success, going on to receive a record-breaking fourteen Oscar nominations, winning a record-tying eleven awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. This time around, Cameron's efforts are put behind the story of the Na'vi people of Pandora, undoubtedly a change of pace from Titanic, but as most moviegoers know, Cameron also wrote and directed Terminator 2, and Aliens.
The earliest reviews of Avatar put Cameron's latest effort on track for an extremely strong path with critics, as review after review praise the film on multiple levels. Variety's Todd McCarthy writes, "James Cameron's long-gestating epic pitting Earthly despoilers against a forest-dwelling alien race delivers unique spectacle, breathtaking sights, narrative excitement, and an overarching anti-imperialist, back-to-nature theme that will play very well around the world, and yet is rather ironic coming from such a technology-driven picture." Making note of Cameron's track record, McCarthy continues, "Cameron delivers again with a film of universal appeal that just about everyone who ever goes to the movies will need to see."
Empire's Chris Hewitt gave the film the publication's highest rating (5 stars), calling it, "Rich, soulful and exciting in the way that only comes from seeing a master artist at work," but highly recommended that viewers should see the film in its intended 3D format.
In the UK, The Sneak from The Sun raves, "It's a 3D movie people will look back on in years to come to comment on how it transformed cinema." - continuing on to make the bold prediction that "The only reason that Avatar won't top Titanic at the box office is that there are not enough digital screens around the world to show it in all its 3D wonder."
Kirk Honeycutt from The Hollywood Reporter says of Cameron, "With every visual tool he can muster, he takes viewers through the battle like a master tactician, demonstrating how every turn in the fight, every valiant death or cowardly act, changes its course." He continues, "Not a minute is wasted; there is no down time. The only question is: How will Cameron ever top this?"
Despite Avatar's very hot start, a number of critics have been less taken with the film's story. The Guardian's Andrew Pulver writes, "Avatar tries to have it both ways, to be preachy and a thrill-ride at the same time. I can't in all honesty say it pulls it off -- it's baggy, longwinded and, for all the light-speed imagery, just not quick on its feet. Cameron used to be the tautest film-maker around, but he just got slack." Jim Schembri from Australia's The Age says, "Cameron invented a pioneering camera system and ground-breaking visual processing techniques for the film, but perhaps he should have spent a little less time obsessing over the technology and a tad more developing the story beyond the compendium of clichés it regrettably is."
Roger Ebert: Watching "Avatar," I felt sort of the same as when I saw "Star Wars" in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron's film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his "Titanic" was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.
"Avatar" is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings. It invents a new language, Na'vi, as "Lord of the Rings" did, although mercifully I doubt this one can be spoken by humans, even teenage humans. It creates new movie stars. It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation.
Virtually every review I’ve read says that you can’t really see Avatar except in 3D, as it was meant to be seen. Here in Chiang Mai, that means Cinema 3 at Airport Plaza. It’s showing in a number of other rooms as well, but only in 2D, and that’s not really seeing it. Opt for Cinema 3 and 3D, even though it’s pricey: 260 regular, 280 honeymoon.
“It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation.”
* Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: US, Crime/ Drama – 115 mins – Directed by Werner Herzog. Nicolas Cage plays a demented cop on the brink of insanity – a rogue detective who’s as devoted to his job as he is at scoring drugs – and playing fast and loose with the law. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina he becomes a high-functioning addict – a fearless detective reigning over the beautiful ruins of New Orleans with authority and abandon. Complicating his tumultuous life is the prostitute he loves (played by Eva Mendes). Together they descend into their own world marked by desire, compulsion, and conscience. The result is possibly a singular masterpiece of filmmaking, equally sad and manically humorous. The film is offbeat, silly, disarming, and loopy all at the same time, and viewers will decide to ride with it or just give up on it, according to mood and disposition. With Val Kilmer. Rated R in the US for drug use and language throughout, some violence, and sexuality. Generally favorable reviews, 69/72 out of 100 on average, but a wide divergence of opinion. At Vista only. (13+)
The New York Times, A.O. Scott: A fever-swamp of a movie, an anarchist film noir that seems, at times, almost as unhinged as its protagonist. Fueled by Nicolas Cage’s performance — which requires adjectives as yet uncoined, typed with both the caps-lock key and the italics button engaged — Mr. Herzog’s film is a pulpy, glorious mess. Its maniacal unpredictability is such a blast that it reminds you just how tidy and dull most crime thrillers are these days.
The Christian Science Monitor, Peter Rainer: The pairing of Nicolas Cage, one of the world's most out-there actors, with Werner Herzog, cinema's reigning madman-visionary, is a match made in looney-tunes heaven. Critics who complain that this movie is a great big mess aren't wrong, exactly. But the messiness is what makes it so excitingly oddball. If it wasn't "too much" it wouldn't be enough. Cage plays a New Orleans cop who, because of an injured back, is addicted to Vicodin and cocaine. Investigating a mob-style rub-out of a Senegalese immigrant family, he sinks deeper and deeper into a morass mostly of his own making.
He turns into a walking pharmacy and yet, despite it all, or perhaps because of it, he's a fearless criminal investigator. The fact that he occasionally hallucinates on the job is just an occupational hazard. For us, it's a boon. I ask you: In what other movie are you going to find singing iguanas?
Roger Ebert: Werner Herzog'sfilm creates a dire portrait of a rapist, murderer, drug addict, corrupt cop, and degenerate paranoid who's very apprehensive about iguanas. It places him in a devastated New Orleans not long after Hurricane Katrina. It makes no attempt to show that city of legends in a flattering light. And it gradually reveals itself as a sly comedy about a snaky but courageous man.
No one is better at this kind of performance than Nicolas Cage. He's a fearless actor. He doesn't care if you think he goes over the top. If a film calls for it, he will crawl to the top hand over hand with bleeding fingernails.
In the gallery of bad cops, Terence McDonagh belongs in the first room. In a city deserted by many of its citizens and much of its good fortune, McDonagh roams the midnight streets without supervision. He Serves and Protects himself. He is the Law, and the Law exists for his personal benefit.
Variety, Todd Mccarthy: If one watched this movie without knowing the identity of the director, it would admittedly be difficult to give it much credit, since it is so indifferently made, erratically acted, and dramatically diffuse. Not in 20 years or more has Herzog exercised the sort of formal control over his dramatic features that he has over his documentaries, and for a considerable stretch, it remains unclear how one is to assess the director’s handling of veteran TV crime writer William Finkelstein's pulpy scenario. The film is offbeat, silly, disarming and loopy all at the same time, and viewers will decide to ride with that or just give up on it, according to mood and disposition.
Already on Vicodin for back pain, Cage's Lt. Terence McDonagh pursues the case of five Senegalese illegals rubbed out in an obvious drug-world hit. The search for their supplier takes place across some of the scuzziest stretches of the Big Easy, and all signs point to an elusive operator named Big Fate.
But all along, the mystery takes a backseat to the lieutenant's increasingly erratic behavior. Hunched over due to his back problems and customarily dressed in a slightly oversized suit with a large revolver stuck straight down the front of his pants, Terence resembles nobody so much as Nosferatu, the protagonist of one of Herzog's key films 30 years ago. At one moment, Terence is shaking down upscale clubgoers for their drugs and screwing their dates in front of them, then rushing to his unlikely prostie girlfriend Frankie (Eva Mendes), for a coke antidote to the heroin he's accidentally snorted. He also, as in the original film, runs up a frightening debt with reckless sports betting.
Weird little interludes see Terence taking up again with a hot-to-trot former ladyfriend (a very good Fairuza Balk), assuming responsibility for a large dog and dumping him on Frankie, and participating in some bizarre shenanigans involving alligators and iguanas photographed in extreme, handheld closeup by Herzog himself.
Once Terence hits bottom -- he's totally drugged out, put on suspension at work, owes a ton to his bookie, threatened by thugs and faced with losing his girlfriend -- the film gets giddy and ends up being, of all things, a fairy tale with a wrap-up no one would expect.
If Cage was looking for a vehicle in which his hyper-emoting would be dramatically justifiable, he found one here. Sometimes he's so over the top it's funny, which one can hope was intentional.
Pai in Love / ปายอินเลิฟ: Thai, Romance/ Comedy – 115 mins – Thai ensemble romantic comedy of six short films centered on 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. In Thai only at Airport Plaza, with English subtitles at Vista. Good for Vista for providing English subtitles; I’ve been complaining about that. Now I’m off to see it! (13+)
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. I found it generally entertaining, and a couple of episodes quite striking. Nice little unthreatening collection of 8-minute films, most with a twist at the end. Mixed or average reviews: 49/51 out of 100.At Vista/ Kadsuankaew only.
Couples Retreat: US, Comedy – 113 mins – Seems to be an arid, mirthless comedy, from all reports. The comedy centers 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. At Vista only. (13+)
Yam Yasothon 2 / Yam-Ya-So-Thon 2 / Hello Yasothorn 2: Thai, Comedy – 90 mins – Thai down-country comedy with popular comedian Mum Jokmok, a couple of his off-spring, and a bevy of the usual TV comedians, all in colorful costumes engaged in rustic Isan humor. In Isan dialect, with Central Thai and English subtitles.(15+)
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, December 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.
The Storm Warriors 2 / Storm Riders 2: The Storm Warriors / Fung wan II / 风云II: HongKong, Action/Adventure/ Fantasy – A film produced and directed by the twins Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, and this is cause for excitement! 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.
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.
From Alice in Wonderland