Holmes still sleuthing – when he’s not fighting!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Wednesday, December 30, 2009
… through Wednesday, January 6
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Avatar. Sherlock Holmes.
This is Issue Number 9 of Volume 5 of these listings, into our fifth year!
Picture at right is from Avatar.
Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays, except for premium films.
A note about Avatar:I bought my 3D Avatar ticket several days in advance, for the first showing, at 11:15 on December 17. Duly arriving there on that Thursday morning, I was told that the 3D version was not available. Would I care for the 2D version? Well, yes and no, but I ended up seeing the 2D version in the big theater (Cinema 7) at 11:45. It's an astounding film, and the 2D was truly impressive. And to tell the truth, it was kind of nice not to be bothered with the glasses, and not having to put up with the dimming effect of the 3D process.
I was told that all the 3D prints received in Thailand were "not widescreen" and replacement prints were expected from the distributor in the US, due to arrive in Chiang Mai the next day. Turns out “widescreen” was never in the cards; the version they had was the one they had to use. Which they did, starting Friday, the 18th.
When I finally saw the 3D version, yes, the screen looks small. Maybe not miniscule, but certainly it doesn’t fill up the screen like it should and as you’re used to seeing. Here in Chiang Mai, there’s no comparison: the 2D version showing on the two big screens of Cinemas 6 and 7 is much more satisfying.
The IMAX 3D version in Bangkok is undoubtedly a different story altogether.
And there’s another problem with the 3D version used here: Unlike the 2D version, surprisingly, the 3D version does not have English subtitles for the long stretches of dialog in the Na’vi language, a complete new language which James Cameron created for the natives of the planet Pandora. At times, this dialog is crucial, and you need to understand what is being said. Cameron even created a special font and subtitle style for the Na’vi translations into English, which you see in the 2D version, and not to have them in the 3D version is really a huge mistake.
Added to the fact that the current 3D technology results in a less bright image, I would have to reluctantly say that you’re better off with the 2D version of Avatar here in Chiang Mai, despite the fact that James Cameron went to great lengths to create the last word in 3D effects.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Did You Hear About the Morgans?: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 103 mins – Starring: Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen. Generally unfavorable reviews: 27/29 out of 100.
Seattle Times, Moira Macdonald: Grant and Parker play an estranged New York power couple who have the great misfortune of witnessing a murder and thus becoming the immediate targets of a hit man. They're whisked into the witness protection program and sent to Ray, Wyo., a place populated by bears, rodeo cowboys and no Saks Fifth Avenue. And, well ... nothing much happens for the next 90 minutes. . . Toss this one on the ever-growing pile of failed Hollywood romantic comedies, and wish Grant and Parker better luck next time.
Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore: Painful to watch.
Moviexclusive, Linus Tee: In less than a decade or so, Jay Chou has emerged as one of Asia’s most bankable stars thanks to his musical abilities which makes him a chart-topper with every album he has released. Since then, the multi-talented artiste has tried his hand as a MTV director, a full-pledged movie director (Secret), a businessman who co-owns restaurants, and the occasional actor (Curse of the Golden Flower, Kung Fu Dunk).
In a role that is tailored to showcase his aura of 'coolness' to the maximum, Chou plays Qiaofeng [Ciao Fei or Qiao Fei], a treasure protector who must rescue the kidnapped daughter of his boss, Lan Ting (Lin Chiling/ Lin Chi Ling) from Pork Rib (Eric Tsang). Rib wants Lan Ting’s father to hand him the map to the Lost City where treasures are believed to be buried. With them is a famous archaeologist who made an ill-fated trip to the Lost City years ago with a group of his friends.
This and much other mumbo-jumbo about the Sandstorm Legion and Eagle of the Desert turn this fantasy adventure into an immensely dreary affair. With a script-writing team consisting of no less than five writers, the lackluster script is a gleaming example of why too many cooks spoil the soup. Plotlines that seem important one minute, disappear the next, and many characters float in and out without apparently any substantial reason to be there. Some are simply setup to fight against our dear Qiaofeng - for example Will Liu Geng Hong’s character and River Chen who plays the mysterious yet laughable 'Eagle of the Desert'.
Our man, Jay Chou, is of course his usual self, playing the aloof hero who can’t determine if he likes Lan Ting or not. His character is the combination of both Indiana Jones and Rick O’ Connell (from The Mummy) but lacks the charm and wit of both. Perhaps it’s the truckload of mushy and uninteresting dialog that kills the chemistry between Chou and Chiling but top model and squeaky-voiced Lin Chiling in her second cinematic outing after Red Cliff passes off as nothing more than a 'beautiful actress' to ogle at.
So what’s left in KevinChu’s movie is the rated 'A' production values that are simply on a par with any decent Hollywood output. Watch out for the 'Inn & Beer' scene in the beginning, the 'Traveler’s Village,' and the finale set design which are visually enriching. The lush cinematography and the score by Ricky Ho really help to kill the time too. Tony Ching’s action choreography on the other hand is disappointing with plenty of unnecessary slow-mo shots and wirefu works that worked better in the decade-old The Matrix.
Unless you are a die-hard fan of Jay Chou or one who hugs a photo of Chiling to bed on a nightly basis, I doubt you’ll find The Treasure Hunter worth watching.
Poppysmic: What were the cast and crew thinking when they made this movie? Didn’t anyone at any point in time stop to look at the footage and think to themselves “What have we done?” The acting is campy, the dialogue laughable, the storyline is messy, screen characters appear and exit without reason, and the fight choreography involved too much surreal wire work. Production values were so low that at one point, Eric Tsang's character was spotted hugging gold-wrapped rectangular boxes passing off as gold bars.
From one viewer’s blog: This film is so lame it becomes a comedy, as opposed to the adventure story it was intended to be. Starring Taiwan pop icon Jay Chou and model Lin Chi-ling, it has a classic storyline - a couple explore an ancient treasure land - but never reaches the humble heights that the Mummy series and other passable adventure films achieve.
The hero is like a video game avatar, fighting one rival after another, for no apparent reason. Loopholes are everywhere. An inn in the heart of the desert has water falling from an electric fan every minute, while the corpse in a watery tomb is totally dry. The scene of treasure hunters entering and leaving an ancient tomb full of poisonous air without any masks is another faux pas.
Counting how many loopholes the film has will be the first thing you want to do after seeing it, because it makes you feel superior to the screenwriters, but soon you will give up on such a tedious job. Further discussion of the storyline is unnecessary because there is no real plot to speak of.
* 32 Tan-Wah / 32 ธันวา: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 120 mins – Yet another Thai “rom/com” with precious little information available about it. This one takes place on the 32nd of December.
New York Times, A. O. Scott: Holmes has never been much for physical violence, and the chief innovation of this new, franchise-ready incarnation, directed by Guy Ritchie and played by Robert Downey Jr., is that he is, in addition to everything else, a brawling, head-butting, fist-in-the-gut, knee-in-the-groin action hero.
A smart one, for sure, and as played by Mr. Downey, with his characteristic twitchy wit and haggard insouciance, he has more intelligence than the movie knows what to do with. (His Holmes has also lost the deerstalker, favoring battered porkpie or bowlerlike headwear, perhaps in homage to Charlie Chaplin, another character Mr. Downey has played.)
Of course intelligence has never ranked high among either Mr. Ritchie’s interests or his attributes as a filmmaker. His primary desire, most successfully realized early in his directing career, in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch,” has always been to be cool: to make cool movies about cool guys with cool stuff. Yes, “Sherlock Holmes” is kind of cool. But that’s not really a compliment.
Still, it’s Christmas, and the teenage boys in the house have fructose in their bloodstreams and time on their hands, so let’s call it half a compliment. There are worse things than loutish, laddish cool, and as a series of poses and stunts, “Sherlock Holmes” is intermittently diverting.
The visual style — a smoky, greasy, steam-punk rendering of Victorian London, full of soot and guts and bad teeth and period clothes — shows some undeniable flair. And so do the kinetic chases and scrapes that lead us through the city, as Holmes and his pal Watson (Jude Law) scramble to unravel a conspiracy so diabolical that it fails to be interesting. Best of all is the banter between Mr. Downey and Mr. Law, who is looser and more mischievous than he’s allowed himself to be in quite some time. The mustache suits him.
Speaking of which: the beard is Rachel McAdams. She is inserted into the picture in a pretty, flouncy red dress to add a splash of color and dispel a few hints of homoerotic subtext. Holmes and Watson are longtime roommates, with an Oscar-and-Felix routine of quarrelsome affection. Watson’s engagement to a page of half-written dialogue named Mary (Kelly Reilly) sends Holmes into a snit of jealousy, which loses some of its interesting implications when Ms. McAdams shows up as a luscious thief named Irene Adler. I wonder: is she an ancestor of Jake and Jane Adler, the main characters of “It’s Complicated,” which also opens on Friday? Or does a movie opening on Christmas need to have a character named Adler in it for some reason?
Ms. McAdams, in any case, is a perfectly charming actress and performs gamely as the third wheel of this action-bromance tricycle. But Irene, though she figures in a few of Conan Doyle’s stories, feels in this movie more like a somewhat cynical commercial contrivance. She offers a little something for the ladies — who, according to airtight Hollywood corporate logic, are more likely to see a movie like this one if there’s a feisty woman in it — and also something for the lads, who, much as they may dig fights and explosions and guns and chases, also like girls.
Just like Holmes and Watson! They really do, in spite of the barely sublimated physical passion they manifest for each other in nearly every scene. I’m sure Warner Brothers would like me to change the subject and tell you about the amazing diabolical conspiracy that tests Holmes’s ingenuity, along with his faith in the supremacy of reason.
It seems that an evil aristocrat (Mark Strong), executed for a series of murders, returns from the dead to mobilize an ancient secret society that he may have time-traveled into a Dan Brown novel to learn about. Doesn’t that sound fascinating? I thought not. But there will be a sequel, for which this frantic, harmless movie serves as an extended teaser, and it looks as if it might feature Holmes’s literary archnemesis, Professor Moriarty. No doubt Holmes will break a chair over Moriarty’s head, kidney-punch him and kick him in the face. Wittily, though, like the great detective he is.
Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 162 mins – Tops for the second weekend in a row at the US boxoffice, and the Thai, and apparently most of the world. Director James Cameron (Titanic) has produced a major achievement and a technological breakthrough. The story involves a band of humans pitted in battle against a distant planet's indigenous population. It’s a film of universal appeal that just about everyone who ever goes to the movies will see. The film delivers on all counts. Highly recommended; not to be missed. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 83/76 out of 100.
2D version: In English and Na'vi dialogue, with English and Thai subtitles as needed for both languages. At Airport Plaza only, and only three times a day now on weekdays: 17:25| 18:25| 23:15|. But check!
3D version: In English and Na'vi dialogue, with Thai subtitles as needed for both languages. No English subtitles for the Na’vi language (only Thai subtitles). (In Chiang Mai, 3D only available in Cinema 3 at Major Cineplex, Airport Plaza.) Four times a day: 11:35| 15:00| 18:25| 21:50|. But check!
2D version, Thai-dubbed: Thai-dubbed only. No English subtitles. At Vista Kadsuankaew only, four times a day: 12:00| 15:00| 18:00| 21:00|.
Rotten Tomatoes: Indeed a visionary picture, a movie of such sensorial power and majesty that you won't mind too much that the plotting and characters aren't quite as state-of-the-art. Sam Worthington stars as an ex-Marine who has replaced his twin brother as an Avatar driver in the alien world of Pandora; he soon finds his loyalties divided between the military and the Na'vi, the indigenous species on this strange planet. The pundits are wowed by Cameron's phantasmagorical visuals, which many agree mark a giant leap forward in the realm of special effects.
Roger Ebert: 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.
Special note! Next Up: Better Glasses!
New York Times, Eric A. Taub: While the blue-skinned Na’vi are shooting arrows out of the screen toward the audience in the 3-D movie Avatar, another battle is being fought in the theater — over the goofy-looking glasses that moviegoers must wear to see the three-dimensional effects.
Four companies are fighting for bridge of the nose with three different technologies. Each of them is more advanced than the paper glasses worn to view “Bwana Devil,” regarded as the first of the commercial 3-D movies in the 1950s, but all work on the same general principle. Each eye sees a slightly different frame of the movie, but the brain puts them together and perceives depth.
Other than its standard-issue movie glasses, RealD offers 3-D sunglasses, top,
prescription, right, child-size glasses and adult.
About four million glasses made by RealD, the market leader, were worn during Avatar’s opening weekend in the United States. RealD’s glasses use polarized lenses and cost about 65 cents each. MasterImage 3D, another vendor, uses a similar technology.
Dolby Laboratories, the company behind theater sound systems, makes glasses that filter out different frequencies of red, green and blue. They cost about $28 each. The glasses of the third company, XpanD, use battery-powered LCD shutters that open and shut so each eye sees the appropriate frame of the movie. Those cost as much as $50 each.
Each company claims its glasses and projection-system technology is better. Because glasses using one technology are useless in a theater using a different digital projection system, the companies backing the three technologies are scrambling for the upper hand while the 3-D industry is still in its infancy. . . .
The Storm Warriors 2 / Storm Riders 2: The Storm Warriors / Fung wan II / 风云II: Hong Kong, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy – 112 mins – A film produced and directed by the twins Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, The Storm Warriors is described as a martial arts/wuxia film, andis the first Chinese film to extensively use bluescreen – and do they make the most of it! Shot entirely in three studios in Bangkok, it’s really a special effects movie. Such as an army of flying creatures that reminded me of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz; they’re defeated by being first changed into what looks like obsidian, and then smashed into slivers. Very effective. As is the terrific makeup. So, yes, the style is truly great; the substance questionable. In this sequel, the heroes of the first film, Wind and Cloud, find themselves up against a ruthless Japanese warlord intent on invading China. Unfortunately, it’s presented in a Thai-dubbed version only, with no English subtitles. But I loved the visuals, and the fantasy.
October Sonata / รักที่รอคอย: Thai, Drama/Romance – 115 mins – Sangchan is a girl working in a factory who falls in love with an attractive young student named Rawee, a leader of student activists whom she meets on October 8th of 1970 at a funeral of a fellow activist. . Rawee goes tostudy abroad, but he keeps a promise to come back to see Sangchan on October 8th of each year. But in October 1973, Rawee fails to show after being rounded up for his involvement in the October 14 uprising. Eventually they meet again, in another October.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, January 7, 2010
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.
Bodyguards and Assassins / Shi yue wei cheng / 十月圍城: China, Action/ Drama/ History – The film concerns efforts by a group of martial artists to protect Dr. Sun Yat-sen who is popularly referred to 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, this is an action/ drama film featuring an all-star cast including Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, and Nicholas Tse.
And looking forward:
Jan 21, 2010 – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: US, Animation/ Family – 90 mins – I know it sounds crazy, but the buzz is that it’s quite enjoyable. Generally favorable reviews: 66/64 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Quirky humor, plucky characters, and solid slapstick make this family comedy a frenetically tasty time at the movies.
Inspired by Ron and Judi Barrett's beloved children's book of the same name, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs follows inventor Flint Lockwood (voice of Bill Hader) and brainy weathergirl Sam Sparks (voice of Anna Faris) as they attempt to discover why the rain in their small town has stopped while food is falling in its place. Meanwhile, lifelong bully Brent (voice of Adam Samberg) relishes in tormenting Flint just as he did when they were kids, and Mayor Shelbourne (voice of Bruce Campbell) schemes to use Flint's latest invention--a device designed to improve everyone's lives--for his own personal gain. Mr. T. voices by-the-books cop Earl Devereaux, and James Caan voices Flint's technophobe father, Tim.
New York Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman: Very likely the most fun your family will have this month.
Variety: Eye-popping and mouth-watering in one, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs spins a 30-page children's book into a 90-minute all-you-can-laugh buffet.
Jan 21, 2010 – The Spy Next Door: US, Action/ Comedy/ Family – With Jackie Chan. “Former CIA spy Bob Ho (Chan) takes on his toughest assignment to date: looking after his girlfriend's three kids, who haven't exactly warmed to their mom's beau. And when one of the youngsters accidentally downloads a top-secret formula, Bob's longtime nemesis, a Russian terrorist, pays a visit to the family.”
Jan 21, 2010 – Case 39: US/ Canada, Horror/ Thriller– 109 mins – Renée Zellweger hasn't starred in a horror film since the beginning of her career, but she makes a return to the genre with this creepy thriller. The Oscar-winning actress plays a social worker whose attempts to save a young girl (Jodelle Ferland, Tideland) from abuse may be misguided. Rated R in the US for violence and terror including disturbing images. Generally negative reviews: 37 out of 100.
MovieTime, ABC Radio National, Ruth Hessey: This is a nasty and morally repulsive film.
Herald Sun (Australia, Leigh Paatsch): It is universally terrible in virtually every department, save for the creepy charisma displayed by young Ferland.