Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Whats On starting April 30

Vista delays Slumdog Millionaire one week to May 14!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, April 30

by Thomas Ohlson


Here are my comments on the films playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, April 30, 2009, plus the terrific Wolverine which opened on Wednesday, April 29.


I’ve also included here information on filmprograms at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks.


Vista has confirmed May 14 for the opening of this year’s Oscar best picture Slumdog Millionaire. I think this is quite a coup for Vista.


This is Issue Number 27 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!


And now there’s now an online version for Pattaya, too, at  



Now playing in Chiang Mai    * = new this week

* X-Men Origins: Wolverine [opens Wednesday, April 29]: US/ New Zealand/ Australia, Action/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller97 mins – Marvel Enterprises, following hard upon the highly successful reemergence of their comic book franchises in 2008 with Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr., and then a month later The Incredible Hulk, with Edward Norton, has topped them both with their latest, Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman. I think this is simply brilliant, starting out with eight minutes of nigh perfect popular filmmaking, a sequence that is thrilling, sensible, and, wonder of wonders, deeply intriguing! It then veers into a quiet sequence building up a love-interest, which might seem to be just padding, but no, get involved with it, because the love relationship leads to some real emotional payoffs down the line. A superb action film for anyone who likes the genre, with thrilling performances by Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, and many others.


* Mor 3 Pee 4 / .3 ปี4 เรารักนาย [opens Thursday, April 30]: Thai, Romance/ Comedy 90 mins – A nice little advertisement for MSN: Four teenagers make friends and chat online on MSN. Thee and Nut are brothers living in Bangkok, June and Jane are sisters who live in Phuket. Do the two pairs finally meet? Well it’s called a “romance” after all!

* Saranae Howpeng / สาระแนห้าวเป้ง!![opens Thursday, April 30]: Thai,Comedy 90 mins – Movie version of "Saranae Show" – a popular Thai comedy TV show that has been on the air for 11 years. With many well-known Thai comedians, including Mum Jokmok (Petchthai Wongkamlao), Kietisak "Hoi" Udomnak, Ple Nakorn, and Willy McIntosh.


The Haunting in Connecticut: US, Horror/ Thriller 102 mins – US, Horror/ Thriller – A classic haunted-house film, and really well-done of its type. The Thai audience I was in frequently gasped and screamed in delight at the many scares. Besides which, the family is very believable, and an interesting assortment of people. The story: A family moves into a new home where awful things happened in the past. Based on true events, sort of. Here’s a tip if you ever move into a haunted house: it’s not a good idea to play Hide-and-Seek there. Generally negative reviews: 33/39 out of 100.

Rotten Tomatoes: “A direct descendent of classic haunted-house films like Burnt Offerings (1975) and The Amityville Horror (1979), The Haunting In Connecticut also features the classic premise of a family moving into a new home where the bad deeds of previous tenants have left a foul psychic residue. Reportedly based on true events experienced by the Snedeker family in the 1970s, Peter Cornwell’s film has plenty of effective scares, but it is also a moving family drama featuring an impressive performance by Virginia Madsen (Sideways). It is 1987, and Connecticut teenager Matt Campbell (Kyle Gallner) is undergoing painful, experimental cancer treatments. Long drives to the hospital are making a trying experience even worse, so his mother, Sara (Madsen), rents an old house and moves the family closer to Matt’s clinic. Soon after moving into the house, Matt begins to have disturbing hallucinations of strange figures; but believing these visions to be unfortunate side effects of his cancer therapy, he keeps them to himself. When the visions persist, a bit of sleuthing reveals the Campbells’ new abode to be an old funeral home where séances were held in the 1920s by a mortician who also had dealings in the black arts that have left some restless spirits wandering the house. The first half of The Haunting In Connecticut, where it isn’t clear if Matt’s visions are real or imagined, is driven more by the touching story of a mother and son caught in a painful situation than by shocks and scares. Once it’s confirmed that the ghosts are real, however, the film becomes a tight little thriller with some genuinely creepy moments. Martin Donovan, as the alcoholic father of the Campbell family, and Elias Koteas, as a sympathetic priest, do great work in supporting roles.”


Roger Ebert: The Haunting in Connecticut is a technically proficient horror movie and well acted. We have here no stock characters, but Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan in a troubled marriage, Kyle Gallner as their dying son, and Elias Koteas as a grim priest. They make the family, now known as the Campbells, about as real as they can be under the circumstances. The film has an alarming score and creepy photography, and a house that doesn't look like it has been occupied since the original inhabitants ... died, let's say.


New York Daily News, Elizabeth Weitzman:  Don't misunderstand: the proceedings are pretty silly, and the scares were a lot fresher back in 1979, when we first saw The Amityville Horror. But Cornwell and his cast take things just seriously enough to keep us at least intermittently on edge.

Khan Kluay 2 /ก้านกล้วย2:  Thai, Animation/ Adventure – 90 mins Khan Kluay, the legendary elephant, is back in action in this superb sequel to the animated movie Khan Kluay. Brilliant, beautiful animation that looks 3D though really only 2D, with an engrossing story, set after the victory at Ayuthaya against the invasion of the powerful Burmese Empire, when Khan Kluay is appointed King Naresuan's royal elephant. I especially like the animators’ skill in the opening sequences behind the credits, as the camera swoops through forests and jungles and finally the city of Ayuttaya, using effective multi-plane techniques and just showing off their artistry. The filmmakers seem much more assured than in the first Khan Kluay, and their skills are now really quite advanced. I was also struck by the beautiful final images while Khan Kluay was “dead” awaiting his children to return him to life. There are some truly scary parts involving death and destruction.


Crank: High Voltage: US, Action 96 mins – The indestructible hopped-up hitman Chev Chelios is played to the hilt once again by Jason Statham, picking up where the first film left offexcept this time, Chelios is chasing a Chinese gangster who hijacked his heart and substituted it with a mechanical one that needs to be jolted regularly with an electric charge to stay pumping. With David Carradine. Rated R in the US for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity, and pervasive language. Mixed or average reviews: 47/56 out of 100.


Race to Witch Mountain: US, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller98 mins – A perfectly acceptable action/ adventure film for children (mostly) with all the standard chills and thrills. Well done of its type, and the ex-Rock Dwayne Johnson is (mostly) charming as a Las Vegas cabbie who enlists the help of a UFO expert to protect two children with paranormal powers from the clutches of an organization that wants to use the kids for their nefarious plans. Mixed or average reviews: 52/51 out of 100.


Roger Ebert: Innocuous family entertainment.


Variety: Strikes a deft balance of chase-movie suspense and wisecracking humor, with a few slam-bang action setpieces that would shame the makers of more allegedly grown-up genre fare.


Monsters vs Aliens:  US, Animated/ Action/ Sci-Fi 94 mins – An animated feature that has gotten what has to be called rave reviews from a number of reviewers, and some others highly critical. I found it half imaginative and amusing, half irritating – the really irritating part being Reese Witherspoon’s shrill voice, and her character, the creepy All-American-cheery-housewife-but-liberated-woman type. The bug is more fun. Mixed or average reviews: 56/59 out of 100.


Fast & Furious 4: US, Action107 mins – Vin Diesel and Paul Walkerreteam for the ultimate chapter of this film franchise built on speed and cars, which started in 2001 with the hugely popular The Fast and the Furious. Although this is the fourth of the series, time-wise it fits in between the second and the third films. It’s almost entirely about car races and car crashes, and it's a profoundly silly movie. During the non-action parts, Vin Diesel intimidates people. He’s very good at it. He does it by furrowing his permanently furrowed brow even further. Look, some people like all this nonsense! Mixed or average reviews: 45/45 out of 100.


Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert: Exactly and precisely what you'd expect. Nothing more, unfortunately. You get your cars that are fast and your characters that are furious. . . . I admire the craft involved, but the movie leaves me profoundly indifferent. After three earlier movies in the series, which have been transmuted into video games, why do we need a fourth one? Oh. I just answered my own question.


Rahtree Reborn / บุปผาราตรี3.1: Thai, Horror/ Romance 90 mins – A rather amateurish half comedy, half laughably inept horror film, starring Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer, experimenting in a different movie genre, one hopes for the last time. The striking posters are truly much better than the film. It’s a sequel to Yuthlert Sippapak’s quite well-known horror films Buppha Rahtree (2003) and Buppah Rahtree Phase 2: Rahtree Returns (2005), and is set in the same apartment where the haunting story was told before. 


Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, May 7



Star Trek (2009): US/ Germany, Sci-Fi/ Adventure/ Action126 mins – All new! This much-anticipated film is a reboot of the series, going back to the series’ ’60s roots by depicting the formative experiences of the legendary heroes Kirk and Spock, and their young, new crew. From director J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III, Lost, and Alias). Early reviews: generally favorable: 75 out of 100.


Time Out Online, Tom Huddleston: It’s a genuine pleasure to report that Abrams’s Star Trek is a winner on almost all fronts. The cast – from Chris Pine’s whisky-soaked, pugilistic lothario Kirk, through Bruce Greenwood’s commanding Pike, to Simon Pegg’s overenthusiastic Scotty – are almost flawless. Perhaps the hardest task goes to Zachary Quinto, not just essaying the series’ most iconic character, Spock, but face-to-face with his predecessor Leonard Nimoy, thanks to the film’s time-mangling plotline. Luckily, Quinto delivers a note-perfect performance, managing, as Nimoy did before him, to make this taciturn, officious, archly superior lifeform enormously likeable.


The Tale of Despereaux: UK/ US, Adventure/ Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy – 93 mins – Quite a curious film, with a curious style and point of view. Atmospheric and charming, and not your ordinary plot-driven animation by any means. Rather laid-back, and amusing rather than funny, and pleasant rather than exciting. A fable with simple themes, the straightforward story begins in a nameless town with a "Camelot" vibe, and is told with lushly drawn backdrops, many of which have the look of really old paper. There's also a depth of field throughout The Tale of Despereaux that's reminiscent of skilled hand drawing. This may be the first animated film where you notice the cinematography. Mixed or average reviews: 53/56 out of 100.

And looking forward:


May 14 – Slumdog Millionaire: US/ UK, Crime/ Drama/ Romance – 120 mins – Improbably (a third of the movie is in Hindi, after all), this film won Oscar best picture and best director – and awards for adapted screenplay, original score, film editing, original song, sound mixing, and cinematography. Rated R in the US for some violence, disturbing images, and language. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 86/83 out of 100. At Vista only.


An impoverished Indian teen becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?”, wins, and is then suspected of cheating. Trailer available here, just click.


Roger Ebert: This is a breathless, exciting story, heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time, about a Mumbai orphan who rises from rags to riches on the strength of his lively intelligence. It tells the story of an orphan from the slums of Mumbai who is born into a brutal existence. A petty thief, impostor and survivor, mired in dire poverty, he improvises his way up through the world and remembers everything he has learned. High-spirited and defiant in the worst of times, he survives. He scrapes out a living at the Taj Mahal, which he did not know about but discovers by being thrown off a train. He pretends to be a guide, invents "facts" out of thin air, advises tourists to remove their shoes and then steals them. . . . The film uses dazzling cinematography, breathless editing, driving music, and headlong momentum to explode with narrative force, stirring in a romance at the same time. For Danny Boyle, it is a personal triumph.


Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting (1996), The Beach (2000), 28 Days Later (2002), Millions (2004) [Note: Millions was given a showing at Film Space on March 14], Sunshine (2007)).


May 14 – Angels & Demons: US, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 140 mins – Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) works to solve a murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican. The Vatican appears not to be too pleased with this film, understandably, and Vatican officers banned the movie from being filmed in its grounds. The filmmakers had to build a scale replica of St. Peter's Square, one of the crucial locales of the story. Note that although the novel upon which the film is based is set before the events of the novel The Da Vinci Code, the film has been written as a sequel to follow after events in The Da Vinci Code (2006).


And yet a third sequel to The Da Vinci Code is in the offing:


Author Dan Brown has announced that his next installment in the "Da Vinci Code" series will be "The Lost Symbol," which Doubleday will publish in the U.S. and Canada on Sept. 15. The first print run will be a whopping 5 million copies. Much more than that will be needed if the sales of "Angels and Demons" and "Da Vinci Code" are anything to go by.


"Angels and Demons" has sold 39 million copies to date, and that number is certain to go up following the book’s recent reemergence on the New York Times bestseller list in anticipation of the film’s release. Those sales lag behind "The Da Vinci Code," whose 81 million copies sold puts it behind the Bible but not much else.


Sources said Brown has completed his manuscript. Sony has the rights to the Robert Langdon character, which gives the studio the right to negotiate a deal for the new title. The studio will be bullish. "The Da Vinci Code" grossed $758 million worldwide in 2006, and Columbia has high hopes for the sequel.

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm


May isThe Month of Eric Rohmer at Alliance Française.


At Alliance Française on Friday, May 1:  Holiday!  Labor Day!  No showing. 



At Alliance Française on Friday, May 8:  Holiday!  Visakha Bucha Day!  No showing. 



At Alliance Française on Friday, May 15:  Four Early Works by Eric Rohmer France. B&W. English subtitles.


A collection of philosophically-oriented early works by French New Wave auteur Eric Rohmer, whose meditative, deliberately-paced romance stories dramatize the inconstant nature of the human heart.


1. Présentation ou Charlotte et son steak / Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (1960) by Eric Rohmer – 12 mins – France, Romance/ Comedy/ Short. B&W. English subtitles.


With Jean-Luc Godard, Andrée Bertrand, Anne Couderet.


Charlotte is leaving. Before catching her train, she goes to her apartment for a quick snack -- a steak, as it happens. Walter accompanies her; the little time Charlotte will take to prepare and eat her steak represents his last opportunity to patch things up with her. A tall order, given the utterly unromantic circumstances...

– Alliance description


2. Nadja à Paris / Nadja in Paris (1964) by Eric Rohmer – 13 mins – France, Short. B&W. English subtitles.


With Nadja Tesich (also the writer).


Nadja, a Yugoslavian-born American student, lives at the Cité Universitaire in Paris, strolls in the city and gives her impressions of the different districts she visits...

– Alliance description


IMDb viewer:tells the story of a Yugoslavian-born girl, who was adopted by an American family, who goes to study at the Cité Universitaire in Paris. The character development, considering the brevity of the film, is pretty good, but overall, the film doesn't pack much of a punch at all. Rohmer's other films tend to have an overlying meaning (or "point"), often in a moral lesson. This short is basically a love letter to Paris. "We'll always have Paris." We've all heard that before, and we accept it. Hearing a student experiencing the joy of Paris for the first time isn't exactly exhilarating.



3. La boulangère de Monceau / The Baker of Monceau / The Girl at the Monceau Bakery (1962) by Eric Rohmer – 23 mins – France, Romance/ Short. B&W. English subtitles.


With Barbet Schroeder, Michéle Girardon, Bertrand Tavernier, Claudine Soubrier, Fred Junk.


In Paris, in June, a young man approaches a girl in the street, but after several days without seeing her again, he becomes involved with the girl in the local bakery. Eventually he has to choose between them when he arranges dates with them on the same day...

– Alliance description


Simple, delicate, and jazzy, the first of the Moral Tales shows the stirrings of what would become the Eric Rohmer style: unfussy naturalistic shooting, ironic first-person voice-over, and the image of the “unknowable” woman. A law student (played by producer and future director Barbet Schroeder) with a roving eye and a large appetite stuffs himself full of sugar cookies and pastries daily in order to garner the attentions of the pretty brunette who works in a quaint Paris bakery. But is he truly interested, or is she just a sweet diversion?


IMDb viewer: The first of Eric Rohmer's six moral tales, The Girl at the Bakery Monceau is probably what newcomers to the unorthodox style film-making Rohmer employs should first be exposed to. Not because they should be seen in order but more or less due to the fact that the film is under thirty minutes. As in all the tales the theme (chauvinist male protagonist conflicted over two women) remains the same and in Monceau you are given a small dose of what will carry over into the full length explorations of men in self righteous struggle with reality and ideals.

Rohmer's literary style can be quite trying and his protagonists obnoxiously condescending. His characters are neither heroic nor noble. Rohmer's narrative style which depends heavily on interior monologue reveals some ugly truths that may not cause catastrophe but offer insightful points of view that makes the audience pause in reflection. We sometimes see ourselves in such reflections as well as friends and acquaintances.

Eugene O'Neil said, "We live in illusion and die in reality." In all of his tales Rohmer narrows that gap, exposing a humdrum reality with a fickle illusion born of self deception. There is a subtle subversive reward to be found in all of the "Moral Tales" and with The Girl at the Bakery Monceau he is off to an excellent start.


IMDb viewer: It's said that a writer tells the same story over and over again. Eric Rohmer during a period spanning some nine years developed an idea in regards to the relationship between a man, the ideal woman he loves, and the alluring temptation that presents itself as an aggressive female. In La boulangère de Monceau, he begins his six-part observation.


4. La carrière de Suzanne / Suzanne's Career (1963) by Eric Rohmer – 54 mins – France, Romance. B&W. English subtitles.


With Catherine Sée, Philippe Beuzen, Jean-Claude Biette, Patrick Bauchau, Christian Charrière, Diane Wilkinson, Pierre Cottrell.


Bertrand, a shy and reserved student, admires the rogue confidence of his best friend Guillaume while he exploit the generosity of the sweetly seductive Suzanne...

– Alliance description


Bertrand bides his time in a casually hostile and envious friendship with college chum Guillaume. But when ladies’ man Guillaume seems to be making a play for the spirited, independent Suzanne, Bertrand watches bitterly with disapproval and jealousy. With its ragged black-and-white 16mm photography and strong sense of 1960s Paris, Rohmer’s second Moral Tale is a wonderfully evocative portrait of youthful naiveté and the complicated bonds of friendship and romance.


IMDb viewer: The MO is the same the usual suspects in place in Erich Rohmer's second of his six moral tales. Lifeless amateur actors, cinematic style sacrificed for literary interior monologues about blasé people leading unremarkable lives. Suzanne is basically a three character story told by Bertrand, a bit of a self righteous twerp who remains conflicted about his feelings for the innocent and gullible Susan and his relationship with the amoral Guillaume who exploits Susan. Both men have a low opinion of Susan who in part brings it on herself by allowing the men to use her for her money and in the case of the rakish Guillaume for sex as well.


More concerned with character than plot, Rohmer gives us healthy servings of pettiness, ego, condescension, and denial served up by a self absorbed threesome blind to every one's view but their own. Less than an hour long (Rohmer time) the pace is still slow and the characters repetitious bad habits irritating but if one remains patient is rewarded with an ending rich in truth.


While the more polished, bigger budgeted and lengthier later tales such as Claire's Knee and Love in the Afternoon have a more professional patina about them Suzanne sans all these trappings is still told in the same Rohmer unique way.


The films of Erich Rohmer are an acquired taste. In Night Moves, a hard boiled private investigator played by Gene Hackman says viewing a Rohmer film is like watching paint dry. For twenty years I agreed with this assessment. I may still, but once dried and finished I now see a work of interesting art that is both challenging and pure.


Suzanne is an interesting sketch but for those unfamiliar with Rohmer, I would recommend any of the last three of the six tales first for their accessibility. Watch one and if it doesn't agree with you, wait ten to twenty years and try again. In Rohmer's case patience is a necessity.




Film Space schedule

At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm


May is  “The Month of Funny Little Things” at Film Space.


Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. For the roof, you might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. And, if on the roof, the start might be delayed while everyone waits for it to get darker. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.


At Film Space Saturday, May 2:  Be Kind Rewind (2008) Michel Gondry 102 mins – US, Comedy/ Drama/ Sci-Fi. Reviews: Mixed or average reviews: 52/60 out of 100.

Rotten Tomatoes: Music-video-director-turned-auteur Michel Gondry continues to charm with his low-tech offering, Be Kind Rewind. Set in dreary Passaic, New Jersey, the comedy centers on two of the town's residents: trouble-making Jerry (Jack Black) and well-meaning Mike (Mos Def). Mike works in a video store in an age where the VHS is long dead, but the store's owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), doesn't seem to be in any hurry to change. When Mr. Fletcher leaves town for a trip, he entrusts his store to Mike with one piece of advice: don't let Jerry in the store. But after some mischief, Jerry returns to the store in a strange state. Not only is he weirder than usual, but he's also magnetized, which causes the entire store's stock to be erased. In order to keep the struggling business afloat, Mike and Jerry begin remaking the films in the store one by one. Their hilariously low-budget versions of films such as Ghostbusters and Rush Hour 2 soon begin to draw attention and business to the store, but that creates a whole new set of problems for the pair. Though Gondry's three previous fiction filmsHuman Nature, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and The Science Of Sleepwere all essentially love stories, Be Kind Rewind captures another kind of romance. Both the writer-director and his characters are in love with the cinematic medium itself, and their devotion shows. Be Kind Rewind doesn't reach the heights of Eternal Sunshine, but it doesn't seem to be aiming for that genius. This is simply a hilarious comedy, fun for film fans of all stripes, which celebrates the sheer joy of watching and making films.


The New York Times, A.O. Scott: the deep charm of Mr. Gondry’s film is that it allows the audience to experience it with casual fondness. It is propelled by neither the psychology of its characters nor the machinery of its plot, but rather by a leisurely desire to pass the time, to see what happens next, to find out what would happen if you tried to re-enact Ghostbusters in your neighbor’s kitchen. It’s inviting, undemanding, and altogether wonderful. You’ll want to see it again.



At Film Space Saturday, May 9:  Little Miss Sunshine (2006) Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris 101 mins – US, Comedy/ Drama. Generally favorable reviews: 80/77 out of 100. Rated R in the US for language, some sex and drug content.


A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus. Won two Oscars: best supporting actor (Alan Arkin); and best original screenplay, Michael Arndt. Nominated for two more.

Reel Views, James Berardinelli: It takes a deft hand to fashion a feel-good movie with plenty of laughs and an upbeat ending out of a story that includes drug addiction, a suicide attempt, a death, Nietzsche, and Proust. Despite treading through a minefield of tone shifts, co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and writer Michael Arndt reach the other side unscathed. Little Miss Sunshine is a small gem - or, considering the inclusion of hot star Steve Carell and the $10 million price tag paid by Fox Searchlight to acquire the distribution rights, perhaps not so "small." Smiles will be in evidence on the faces of audience members exiting a showing of this movie.


Rotten Tomatoes: What happens when you stuff a failed motivation speaker, his wife, the nation's number one Proust scholar, an elderly potty-mouthed heroin addict, a teen who’s mute by choice, and a bespectacled little pageant hopeful into a mini VW bus for a three day road trip? You get this hilarious but moving satire about a dysfunctional family obsessed with winning. Credit must go to the ensemble cast that includes Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, and Abigail Breslin and the delightfully funny script by Michael Arndt, which first-time directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris handled perfectly.



At Film Space Saturday, May 16:  Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (2001) Michael Rauch 76 mins – US, Comedy. A film record of Eric Bogosian's one man show at the Jane Street Theatre,a Greenwich Village nightclub.


DVD Verdict: Bogosian has only two props: a chair and microphone. There's a silvery black cinderblock wall as the backdrop; two panels on each side provide for shadowy and evocative projections. Simple, and necessarily off-Broadway cheap. But he uses these tools to span time and vent "the main component in my life: anger." He imagines a "dude" Christ, hanging on the cross—"Ironic, because he was a carpenter, right?"—thinking about "those 12 deadbeats I hung out with who never picked up the check." Then he jolts us to the present, asking, "If this is what God did to His own kid, do you really think He's going to give a damn about your sorry anonymous ass? And what about your soul? When was the last time you remembered you had one?"


Bogosian goes on skewer today's self-help gurus like Deepak Chopra. "You are but one stitch in the vast carpet of the universe, one grain of sand in the endless Sahara of the cosmos, one hair on the butt of a gorilla. Yet we all ask the eternal question: How do I get more money? And that is why I am here tonight. Each of you must give me $200 in four easy installments…" This neatly segues into an angry rant about climbing the corporate ladder—"from the lowest beggar in Calcutta all the way up to Steven Spielberg "—and becoming successful and famous. "My death would make the headlines! Yeah, and maybe some baby girl has starved to death in her crib somewhere, and she's covered with cigarette burns. But who cares…because she was a nobody." Bogosian knows how to prime his audience with some chuckles, and then goad them into a few uneasy laughs.


IMDb viewer: Bogosian is one of the most important playwrights of his generation, a NY fixture in the off-Broadway theater scene, a Guggenheim fellowship guy, and a multi-talented individual. The modern-day Lenny Bruce, or as close as we're gonna get anyway. I highly recommend checking out Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. It's an acerbic and accurate portrayal of modern society and post-consumerism humanity in general. It was originally performed during the last years of the Clinton administration, and thus obviously pre-9/11, but most of it is not dated at all. Bogosian's satire remains topical and dead-on most of the time. His riffs on religion, fame, materialism, psychotherapy etc. are definitely an example of someone who is trying to "keep it real" while conscious of his own limitations and susceptibility to frauds like Deepak Chopra. This DVD is basically a filmed version of the play, filmed during what seems like a regular everyday performance at the Jane Street Theatre in Manhattan's meat-packing district. So it's not really a "film" per se. But if you like theater that is thought-provoking, definitely check this out.


Rotten Tomatoes: Able to turn his hand to acting, writing or spoken word performances, Eric Bogosian is a versatile performer who enjoys pushing the envelope of what's expected from a Hollywood star. This release presents his solo show, in which he lays to waste a number of sacred cows, including religion, pop culture, conformity, and a whole lot more.