Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Whats On starting June 24

Those pesky Transformers are all over the place!


Chiang Mai movies beginning Wednesday, June 24, 2009


… through Tuesday, June 30


by Thomas Ohlson


Best Bet: Up. 


Programs changed yesterday in an unusual 5 pm Tuesday opening throughout Thailand of what the movie folk hope is the next blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Meanwhile, the fancy state-of-the-art computerized ticket system at Airport Plaza is on the fritz, since last Sunday, and they have to write out tickets by hand – a slow and frustrating process. The outage also prevented the posting of the movie times on the website and at the theater electronically, so not many people could get information as to times for their hoped-for blockbuster.


But the merchandizing folk were out in force to sell the Hasbro Transformers™ action figures, as you can see from my picture taken yesterday at the first showing. As they tell you in the titles, the movie is made “in association with” Hasbro.


As for the movie itself, well you just have to throw up your hands in surrender and disbelief! I’m absolutely amazed that there is any coherence at all to the thing.


But Up continues, the most loved mainstream film of the year so far with its superb pre-feature cartoon, and after all the excitement of Transformers dies down, say next Monday, Major Cineplex just might bring back Drag Me to Hell, which has gotten the best reviews of any horror film in years, and possibly even an unannounced return of A Frozen Flower at odd moments for a showing or two. You can check my blog for the latest, because this newsletter is Now online! with a listing of movie times that I try to keep completely up to date, as much as possible in the uncertain world of movie times. Go to:


And now there’s one for Pattaya, too, at  


The European Union Film Festival is scheduled for Chiang Mai November 5 to 15 before moving on to Bangkok. Unfortunately, this conflicts with Bangkok’s World Film Festival, scheduled for November 6 to 15, for those who would like to see both.


And the Bangkok International Film Festival – the one with all the big money behind it – is scheduled for September 24 to 30.


This is Issue Number 35 of Volume 4 of these listings.



Now playing in Chiang Mai    * = new this week


* Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi. It’s Autobots® versus Decepticons®, Round 2, in Michael Bay’s film based on Hasbro’s Transformers™ action figures. With Shia LaBeouf, MeganFox, and JohnTurturro. Now that I’ve seen it, it’s even clearer that it’s all about trade names and merchandising! And yes, the action figures were on sale in the lobby, just as I predicted. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) again joins with the Autobots® against their sworn enemies, the Decepticons®. And by the way, I’ve been mispronouncing “Shia LaBeouf” and perhaps you have too, now that he’s getting to be a household name. (Well, in some households.) It’s /'ʃaɪə lə'bʌf/ "SHY-uh luh-BUFF".


I’m convinced that to really enjoy this film you need years of training. With video games. Mixed or average reviews: 40/41 out of 100. These two review excerpts reflect my views quite closely:


Hollywood Reporter: Bay's team of four editors stitch together smashing but meaningless images, though it's as difficult to make out which machine is which as it is to tell what anyone is saying. The noise level -- not helped by Steve Jablonsky's relentless score -- is super-intense and everyone yells lines at high speed. Because nothing they're saying makes any sense, it's hardly important.


Eye for Film: Despite the intervening years, neither Sam nor the franchise that features him has exactly matured. This sequel is essentially a recap of all the bludgeoning biffo from the first film, only with more characters, and more Transformers on both sides of the (good) Autobot®/(bad) Decepticon® spectrum. It is bigger and longer than the original – but certainly no better, and this time round lacking even a novelty factor.


The action revolves around a long-buried machine capable of destroying all life on Earth, and an ancient Transformer known as The Fallen® (in case anyone misses his Luciferian identity) who returns to set those old cogs a-whirring and take vengeance on the humans he so inexplicably hates. The Fallen® orchestrates the resurrection of mega-bad-robot Megatron® to help him find the hidden 'Matrix' ignition key for the machine – and so Sam finds himself once again drawn into helping the Christ-like Autobot® leader Optimus Prime® (cue solemn stirring music whenever he appears) to save humankind.

Both Prime® and Sam must make some messianic sacrifices (again) in order to beat the Decepticons® to the Matrix and then beat The Fallen® to kingdom come – but since their martyrdoms are not permanent (there's the franchise's future to consider), they lack all substance. Here, as in a video game, all the players can call on more than one life, which serves to reduce considerably any sense of real peril.


Much-needed (if very hit-and-miss) comic relief is provided by Sam's embarrassingly all-American parents (Kevin Dunn, Julie White), by former agent Simmons (John Turturro), by new roommate-cum-geek Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), and by a perky pair of rap-speaking Autobots® named Mudflap and Skids. Beyond that, it's a series of mindless, pounding, effects-heavy set-pieces, no doubt all technically brilliant, but still numbing on the attention, and cut so fast and furious that it is often, as in the first film, difficult to divine (let alone care) who exactly is doing what to whom®. 


Up: US (Disney/Pixar), Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family 96 mins – Everyone’s current favorite! An animated comedy/ fantasy adventure about a 78-year-old balloon salesman (voiced by Ed Asner) who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers all too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell. Also starring Christopher Plummer, and a speech-assisted dog. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88/86 out of 100.


Rotten Tomatoes: Another masterful work of art from Pixar, Up is an exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt adventure impeccably crafted and told with wit and depth.


Terminator Salvation 4: The Future Begins: US/ Germany/ UK, Action/ Sci-Fi – 130 mins – With Christian Bale, Moon Bloodgood, and Common; directed by McG. In this highly anticipated – in some quarters – fourth installment of The Terminator film franchise, set in post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind. If you’ve seen any of the other three installments of this series, you know what to expect: Plenty of chases, explosions, and great effects. Mixed or average reviews: 52/51 out of 100. Only at Vista, with one version dubbed into Thai with no English subtitles, and one English version.


# Drag Me to Hell: US, Horror/ Thriller – 99 mins – Director Sam Raimi started out making perversely entertaining horror fare like the Evil Dead movies before directing blockbusters like Spider-Man. Well, he's back, and in outstanding B-movie form. Alison Lohman stars as a loan officer who becomes the victim of a curse, with evil spirits on her trail and certain damnation in her future – unless she can break the spell. Drag Me to Hell is a wickedly good time: blood-curdlingly scary and ghoulishly funny, it's also taut and timely. It’s the best-reviewed horror film in years. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 83/78 out of 100. # Let’s say it’s temporarily in abeyance.


Blood: The Last Vampire: Hong Kong/ Japan, Action/ Horror – A thoroughly disgusting mess of violence and killing. A remake of the 2000 movie of the same name about a vampire who is part of a covert government agency that hunts and destroys demons in Japan and who is inserted into a military school to discover which one of her classmates is a demon is disguise. I think the film is depraved and shameful, and serves only to brutalize the people who come to see it. Rated R in the US for strong bloody stylized violence. In English, mostly. Only at Airport Plaza. Skip it!



Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Wednesday, July 1 (yes, Wednesday)


Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: US, Animation/ Action/ Comedy/ Romance. After the events of Ice Age: The Meltdown, life begins to change for Manny and his friends: Scrat is still on the hunt to hold onto his beloved acorn, while finding a possible romance in a female sabre-toothed squirrel named Scratte. Manny and Ellie, having since become an item, are expecting a baby, which leaves Manny anxious to ensure that everything is perfect for when his baby arrives. Diego is fed up with being treated like a house-cat and ponders the notion that he is becoming too laid-back. Sid begins to wish for a family of his own, and so steals some dinosaur eggs which leads to Sid ending up in a strange underground world where his herd must rescue him, while dodging dinosaurs and facing danger left and right, and meeting up with a one-eyed weasel known as Buck who hunts dinosaurs intently. With the voices of Ray Romano and John Leguizamo.


Nymph / Nangmai / นางไม้: Thai, Mystery/ Romance – 90 mins – May, an urban working girl seems to have everything in her life. She's lucky in life and love, especially the love that Nop, a talented photographer gives to her. But, May's urbanized lifestyle takes her into the world of seduction as she secretly starts a liaison with Korn, a guy who's already got a wife. Their passion for one another never ends.  Directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang.


Wongkamlao: Thai, Comedy – 90 mins – Popular comedian turns to director, Mum Jokmok, has succeeded in his self-directed movies through the past few years. This time he's back with a romantic comedy called Wongkamlao, that he both self-directs and stars.


Wongkamlao tells the story of Petcharawut (Mum Jokmok), the heir of Wongkamlao Family, an extremely wealthy family that runs a jewelry business, who falls in love with Piramon (Akamsiri Suwanasuk), who is an English tutor for his own younger brother. But the love affair between the rich and the poor always comes with conditions and obstacles. Petcharawut and Piramon inevitably confront the turmoils caused by Wongkamlao's unusual family members, as well as struggle in the world of jealousy, secret, and fun of Wongkamlao.



And looking forward:


Jul 9 – D13-Ultimatum / District 13: Ultimatum:  France, Action – 95 mins – “At last the sequel to the hit District 13 (Banlieue 13).The new adventures of Leito and Damien take us back to the same Parisian ghetto a few years later with our two heroes once more battling the baddies and the clock to save the city from catastrophe.  


Jul 9 – The Secret of Moonacre:  UK, Adventure/ Fantasy – 103 mins – “When 13 year old Maria Merryweather's father dies, leaving her orphaned and homeless, she is forced to leave her luxurious London life to go and live with Sir Benjamin, an eccentric uncle she didn't know she had, at the mysterious Moonacre Manor. Soon Maria finds herself in a crumbling moonlit world torn apart by the hatred of an ancient feud with the dark and sinister De Noir family. Maria discovers that she is the last Moon Princess and, guided by an unlikely mix of allies, she must overcome her family's pride in order to unearth the secrets of the past before the 5000th moon rises and Moonacre disappears into the sea forever.       


Jul 16Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Latest Harry Potter episode. As the boy wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) enters his sixth year at Hogwart's, danger is afoot thanks to the growing forces of He Who Shall Not Be Named. But that's not the only hazard Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to contend with, as another sort of fickle magic is in the air: teenage hormones. Expect director David Yates to serve up the usual brand of Harry Potter excellence (he directed the last HP film, Order of the Phoenix) although screenwriter Steve Kloves has taken some liberties with the material, so Potterites, beware! Voldemort (… oops! I named him!) is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds, and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. If, indeed, ever it was.


Jul 23 – Public Enemies: With Johnny Depp as Dillinger! Michael Mann’s latest film pits Johnny Depp against Christian Bale as the two star as career criminal John Dillinger and G-man Melvin Purvis, respectively, in Public Enemies, a Great Depression-era drama about the FBI’s attempts to shut down organized crime. The film features a strong supporting cast, including Billy Crudup, ChanningTatum, Giovanni Ribisi, and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard. 


Aug 20 Inglourious Basterds: US/ Germany, Action/ Adventure/ WarDirector Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds with Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, and Mélanie Laurent, begins in German-occupied France, where Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema.


Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to engage in targeted acts of retribution. Known to their enemy as "The Basterds," Raine's squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of The Third Reich. Fates converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own.


Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited tale of Jewish-American troops on the hunt for Nazi scalps in WWII France is unlikely to get usurped as the most bad-ass movie of 2009, thanks to the fact that, well, it's a Quentin Tarantino film. Inglourious Basterds stars Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, leader of the titular squadron that includes Samm Levine, Eli Roth, and B. J. Novak; along with German actress and Allied agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), they attempt to bring down the Nazis -- in the bloodiest way possible. Mike Myers, Cloris Leachman, and Samuel L. Jackson also star in the exploitation throwback, so look forward to a star-studded (and gore-filled) good time.    

Alliance Française program

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

At Alliance Française on Friday, June 26:  Casque d'or / Golden Helmet / Golden Marie (1952) by Jacques Becker – 96 mins – France, Crime/ Drama/ Romance. B&W. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.


With Simone Signoret, Claude Dauphin, Serge Reggiani, Raymond Bussieres, Gaston Modot, William Sabatier.


1898. The magnificent love between Marie, nicknamed Casque d’Or, and a carpenter named Manda. Marie was the girlfriend of one of the hoodlums of Leca’s gang. Manda faces and defies the gang, kills Leca...

Alliance description  Arguably Jacques Becker’s best and most famous film, Casque d’Or illustrates perhaps more than any of his films his unique conception of film-making.


Becker’s main preoccupation is to capture through the medium of film the essence of human life – the pleasures, the torments, the triumphs, the defeats – without relying on traditional theatrical or cinematographic devices.  This is most apparent in the initial meeting between Manda and Marie, where hardly any words are exchanged but it is clear, from the body language of the two characters, beautifully photographed, that the two people are instantly attracted to one another.


Indeed, so effective is the photography and so powerful are the acting performances that Casque d’Or would have succeeded even if all of the dialogue had been cut.  What dialogue there is serves simply to reinforce what is being captured on film.


Becker’s Paris of the early 1900s is in stark contrast to that of other film directors of the 1950s (most notably Renoir in French Cancan) – and indeed contrasts vividly with Becker’s own chocolate-box version in his later film, Les aventures d’Arsène Lupin.  In Casque d’Or we are treated to a multi-layered, almost schizophrenic, view of the city.   There is the traditional view of Paris at the time of the Belle Epoch, swaying to the tune of dance hall music and accordions, where lovers dance in each others arms under flickering gas lights.  But, beneath this comforting exterior, there lurks a darker, more menacing city, where duels to the death are enacted in back streets, where crimes of passion are committed in darkened shadows, where convicted criminals are escorted to the gallows by police. Becker’s Paris is the perfect setting for a tragic love story and the realism it affords heightens the emotional impact by several degrees.


It is not possible to write a review of Casque d’Or without reference to its central star, the incredible Simone Signoret.  In this film, the legendary French actress is at her most beautiful and engaging, and she fits the part of Marie so well that it is difficult to believe that the role was not conceived with her in mind.  Signoret works perfectly with Becker’s agenda – a minimalist performance which delivers the maximum impact through a combination of facial expression, gestures, and restrained dialogue.


Simone Signoret lights up every scene she enters, no matter how grim, like an angel of deliverance.   The final shot at the end of the film when she is compelled to witness her lover’s fate is one of the most tragic and moving in cinema history.

Rotten Tomatoes:  Starring international sex symbol Simone Signoret, Casque d'or is often considered director Jacques Becker's masterpiece. Becker was an assistant to the legendary Jean Renoir, and Renoir's influence on Becker is readily apparent in this poetic, impressionist film. Signoret plays Marie, the girlfriend of a minor gangster, who falls in love with a working man. Their love affair leads to a power struggle within the gang and speeds everyone inexorably towards tragedy. Casque d'or features a diligent and careful production design that recreates Paris of the late 19th century, and was based on actual criminal cases from that era. Though dismissed on its initial release in 1952, aside from a BAFTA acting award for Signoret, the critical reputation of Casque d'or grew in subsequent years and is now generally considered one of France's great artistic films



At Alliance Française on Friday, July 3:  La marche de l'empereur / March of the Penguins / The Emperor's Journey (2005) by Luc Jacquet – 85 mins – France, Documentary/ Family. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 79/78 out of 100. Note: This is the original French version, not the US release with Morgan Freeman narrating.


With Charles Berling, penguin father's voice; Romane Bohringer, penguin mother's voice; Jules Sitruk, penguin baby's voice.              


A film on the annual journey of Emperor penguins as they march, single file, to their traditional breeding ground in the Antarctic...

Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes: Coming from a French director, Luc Jacquet, the miraculous March of the Penguins would have to be a love story. And so it is. The film explores the mating rituals of the emperor penguin, one of the most resilient animals on earth. Each summer, after a nourishing period of deep-sea feeding, the penguins pop up onto the ice and begin their procession across the frozen tundra of Antarctica. Walking doggedly in single file, they are a sight to behold. Hundreds converge from every direction, moving instinctively toward their mating ground. Once there, they mingle and chatter until they find the perfect mate--a monogamous match that will last a year, through the brutal winter and into the spring. During that time, the mother will give birth to an egg and then leave for the ocean to feed again. The father will stay to protect the egg through the freezing blizzards and pure darkness of winter, which would be deadly to practically any other species. Finally, with spring, the egg hatches and the baby penguins are born. Mothers return from the sea to reunite with their families and feed the starving newborns, while the fathers are finally relieved of their protective duties after months without food. This remarkable story is narrated by Morgan Freeman [not in this version], whose dignified voice gives the penguins the grave admiration they deserve. But even more incredible is the photography, which shows the penguins hunting underwater, sliding on the ice, and even what definitely looks like kissing. At one point the camera even zooms inside the mouth of a penguin as it regurgitates food for its young. A story of love and, more strikingly, survival, March of the Penguins is a stirring, eye-opening, and educational experience. 



At Alliance Française on Friday, July 10:  Le papillon / The Butterfly (2002) by Philippe Muyl – 85 mins – France, Comedy/ Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 64/66 out of 100.


With Michel Serrault, Claire Bouanich, Nade Dieu,Françoise Michaud,Hélène Hily.              


Julien, an aging and cranky widower, collects butterflies. Isabelle and her eight-year-old daughter Elsa have just moved into his apartment building. The young mother is usually out, and lonely little Elsa starts visiting Julien. One day, Julien decides to go to the breathtaking Vercors plateau in search for a rare breed of butterfly, the Isabelle. He thinks he is alone, but young Elsa has managed to tag along on the trip. The little girl asks tons of questions, upsetting the tranquility that the old man longed for...

Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes: Writer-director Philippe Muyl delivers this tender French family drama about an unlikely bond that forms between a young girl and her elderly neighbor. Michel Serrault (Le Cage aux folles) is Julien, an aging butterfly collector who leads a quiet life. But when Elsa (Claire Bouanich) moves into the apartment above him, Julien's life takes on a new trajectory. Neglected by her mother, the inquisitive eight-year-old attaches herself to Julien and convinces him to take her on a trip to the mountains to try to locate Isabelle, a beautiful but elusive butterfly. At first skeptical, Julien relents--thinking that Elsa's mother has left her alone in the apartment--and the pair embark on their journey. As the journey unfolds, Julien shows Elsa the attention that she's been craving, and Elsa gives Julien a new lease on life, helping him to see the world through more innocent eyes. Back at home, Elsa's mother Isabelle (Nade Dieu) is shocked to discover that her daughter has disappeared. A near-tragedy brings the situation to a head, teaching each of the characters a very valuable lesson about life and love. Directed with extreme sensitivity by Muyl, The Butterfly features standout performances from the always reliable Serrault and newcomer Bouanich.


DVD available from