Four more days of the EU Film Festival! The rest of the world gets destroyed!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, November 12, 2009
… through Wednesday, November 18
by Thomas Ohlson
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: Now going on, through Nov 15. At Vista at Kadsuankaew.
World Film Festival in Bangkok: Now going on, through Nov 15.
EU Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 19 to 29. What we’re seeing here now.
This is Issue Number 2 of Volume 5 of these listings, beginning our fifth year! The first issue came out November 3, 2005. Wow!
Poster at right is for 2012.
Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* 2012: US/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – 158 mins – Director Roland Emmerich has given movie watchers several apocalyptic films in the past in Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, and he offers another look at the end of the world in 2012. This action film stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor (pronounced "chew-it-tell edge-oh-for"), and Amanda Peet. The film proves conclusively that the world will end on December 21, 2012, so let’s hope the studio recoups its investment before then. It’s the Mayan Long Count calendar that contains the proof, and it’s irrefutable. Don’t make any plans for Christmas that year! For further information, read John Major Jenkins, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date (1998).
Thai-dubbed versions as well as English versions are being shown, plus Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza has four showings a day (more on the weekend) in Digital.
Rotten Tomatoes: As big as the planet Earth, Roland Emmerich's 2012 provides plenty of visual thrills, but lacks a strong enough script to support its massive scope and inflated length.
Variety, Todd McCarthy: The notion of playing God is implicit in the job of a film director, and rarely has the sense of a wrathful, vengeful deity at the helm, albeit a pagan one, been so comprehensively felt as in 2012. For demolition maestro Roland Emmerich, "Independence Day,'' "Godzilla'' and "The Day After Tomorrow'' were mere appetizers for the lip-smacking smörgåsbord of global annihilation laid out here. It’s a simultaneously spectacular and risible concoction.
Hooking their doomsday scenario on an interpretation of a Mayan calendar that points to an earthly catastrophe in 2012 -- specifically on 12-21-12 (what movie will pin its release to that date?) -- Emmerich and writing-producing partner Harald Kloser begin by dumping Los Angeles into the sea and follow with the destruction of Las Vegas, Yellowstone National Park, Washington, D.C., the Vatican, India, Tibet, and a giant cruise ship.
Anyone who stops to think about it between grabs of popcorn might pick up the hint that Emmerich is taking particularly gleeful aim at the United States (which other director has destroyed the White House in his films not once but now twice?) and Catholicism (he goes out of his way to detail the collapse of St. Peter's and Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue), while no other religion gets taken to task. But then, that would be taking this eye-popping display of movie pyrotechnics far too seriously. Or not.
Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum: God forgive me, but I enjoyed the nerve-racking silliness of this newest, loudest exercise in destruction.
The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Farber: Eye-popping special effects ensure that this movie will be a smash hit, and while it's entertaining for most of its excessive running time, the cheesy script fails to live up to the grandeur of the physical production.
Emanuel Levy: Size matters: What's presented on screen is not one coherent movie, but a pastiche of all the disaster movies made in Hollywood over the past four decades or so, including a tribute to Emmerich's own pictures, the blockbusters "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow."
Punctuated by eight or nine big, expensive CGI set-pieces, the shamelessly derivative narrative makes sure to include every possible catastrophe imaginable, setting the action scenes on the air, under water, on the ground—you name it. In the course of the film, the hero (played by John Cusack) drives every vehicle imaginable through fire, earth, ash clouds, earthquakes, and water, lots of water.
The movie unfolds as an adventure ride, sort of a day spent at Disneyland, sampling all the attractions you can stomach, without taking a break or a pause to breathe. Opinions will differ as to what extent 2012 is a pleasurable joy ride, or an endless series of crashes, earthquakes, and explosions. Throughout, intentionally or unintentionally, the movie walks a fine line between the darkly humorous and the outrageously risible. Some of the dialogue needs to be heard to be believed.
The film's PG-13 rating suggests that it was made for the entire members of the family--globally. The story's politics are so calculated and vague that the film should not upset any citizen, no matter what his or her ideological credo is. With one or two exceptions, it should also please all members of the U.N.
Ditto for race: The yarn carefully balances its characters in terms of ethnicity and nationality (guess who's the big villain?). With a nod to our new administration, the film's sensitive, populist president is black (Danny Glover), and the heroic protagonist, a conscientious scientist, is also black (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
According to reports, the budget of 2012 exceeds $250 million. Clearly, the money was not spent on the talent, for the movie lacks major stars, instead going for gifted and appealing actors, such as John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the leads, and Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson, and Tom McCarthy in secondary roles.
Credited to Emmerich and Harald Kloser, the cliché-ridden narrative is presumably based on prevalent mythology. Centuries ago, the Maya left their calendar with a clear end date, 2012, with all its implications and ramifications. Since then, astrologists have discovered it, numerologists have found patterns that predict it, geologists say the earth is overdue for it, and even government scientists cannot deny the cataclysm of epic proportions that awaits the earth in 2012.
2012 takes to an extreme the notion that every civilization on Earth has a flood myth, according to which there is a point when society isn’t functional anymore, and the planet needs to start all over again. The Mayan calendar is set to reach the end of its 13th cycle on December 21, 2012; nothing follows that date. Some (select) people get a second chance to begin a new society with a new culture.
The filmmakers would like us to believe that 2012 contains significant philosophical and political elements, but essentially it's an apocalyptic sci-fi-disaster-actioner, obeying all the rules of this hybrid of genres. While you could predict quite accurately who will survive (and who will perish), the only questions are, at what point in the story they'll get killed off and under what specific circumstances, or what specific disaster.
… Emmerich seems to have put everything he knows about filmmaking into 2012 (as if it were his very last project), resulting in a mass entertainment of mass destruction.
Vanquisher / Suay ... Samurai / สวย...ซามูไร: Thai, Action/ Thriller – 90 mins – After completing a covert mission in southern Thailand, CIA agent Genja finds herself forced to fight off rival operatives who’ve been ordered to take her out at all costs. She survives and after two years of lying low, re-emerges in Bangkok to face her old foes and foil a plot to detonate a bomb. It's a full-on action movie, with the main characters all female, which is unusual for a Thai film. What it really is about: Cleavage-baring female swordfighters, clad in cat suits. That’s all you need to know. At Vista only. (18+)
Wise Kwai: With a fresh dose of bright red CGI blood to go with the catsuit-clad, cleavage-baring female swordfighters, this long-in-the-works action flick will finally see the dark of cinema halls on November 5. Directed by veteran Manop Udomdej, the film stars Sophita Sribanchean, playing Genja, a CIA agent betrayed by rival operatives.
Bangkok Traffic Love Story / Rot Fai Faa Ma Ha Na Tur (I Ride the Skytrain to See You) / รถไฟฟ้า..มาหานะเธอ: Thai, Romance/ Comedy – A cute-looking film about a 30 year old single woman who is suddenly forced to give up her car and ride the Bangkok public transportation system, where she falls for a maintenance engineer of the BTS electric train system. It’s a romantic comedy shrewdly crafted to give single girls everything they want in a movie. One of the top Thai films of the year, and at the top of the chart for the past four weeks. At Airport Plaza only.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon: US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Romance/ Thriller – 130 mins – The second installment of Stephenie Meyers phenomenally successful Twilight series, the romance between mortal and vampire soars to a new level as Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) delves deeper into the mysteries of the supernatural world she yearns to become part of only to find herself in greater peril than ever before. Here, the supernatural tale of starcrossed lovers continues as the Cullen family flees Forks in order to protect Bella, and the heartbroken high-school senior discovers that vampires aren't the only creatures in town. Realizing that Bella will never be safe as long as he's around, Edward (Robert Pattinson) makes the difficult decision to leave his beloved behind shortly after her 18th birthday. Reeling from her loss, Bella embraces self-destruction after being comforted by Edward's image during a moment of mortal peril. But as heavy-hearted as Bella may be, her old friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) distracts her from her sorrows by helping her renovate a weather-beaten motorbike. When Bella encounters a former adversary with a sizable grudge, she's rescued from harm at the last second by pack of enormous, ferocious wolves. Subsequently delving into the history of the Quileutes, Bella discovers the secrets of Jacob's tribe while looking forward to a reunion with Edward that may have deadly consequences.
And looking forward:
Nov 26 – Paranormal Activity: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 86 mins – After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence, as the house makes no secret of the fact it is not pleased with its new tenants. Opinions are all over the lot on this one, but most give a thumb’s up. Rated R in the US for language. Generally favorable reviews: 68/72 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Using its low-budget effects and mockumentary method to great result, Paranormal Activity turns a simple haunted house story into 90 minutes of relentless suspense.
Film Threat, Felix Vasques, Jr.: This is a brutal, exhausting, and genuinely horrifying little ghost flick.
Roger Ebert: An ingenious little horror film, so well made it's truly scary.
Rolling Stone, Peter Travers: With a $15,000 budget too puny to empty a petty-cash drawer, the no-frills Paranormal Activity comes packed with thrills.
New York Post, Lou Lumenick: Like legendary producer Val Lewton in the '40s, director Oren Peli, who shot "Paranormal" in seven days in his own home, understands that what's most frightening is what you don't see but merely suggested.
The New York Times, A.O. Scott: A crudely made, half-clever little frightener that has become something of a pop-culture sensation and most certainly the movie marketing story of the year. Midnight showings in college towns and then in big cities, announced through minimal, viral publicity, have generated frenzied word of mouth and long lines at the box office. And now, to capitalize on this success, Paramount is giving the movie, written and directed by Oren Peli on a minuscule budget of $10,000, a full commercial release. Starting today, you can see it during daylight or dinner hours. It won’t be the same, though. At the midnight screening I attended last weekend, by far the most entertaining thing about the movie was the audience.
Nov 26 – Julie & Julia: US, Biography/ Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 123 mins – Meryl Streep gives a charismatic performance as Julia Child, and Amy Adams is Julie Powell in writer-director Nora Ephron’s adaptation of two bestselling memoirs: Powell’s Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme. “Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends...until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness, and butter, anything is possible.” Generally favorable reviews: 66/67 out of 100.
Nov 26 – The Fourth Kind: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 98 mins – “There are four kinds of alien encounters. The fourth kind is abduction.” Fact-based thriller involving an ongoing unsolved mystery in Alaska, where one town has seen an extraordinary number of unexplained disappearances during the past 40 years and there are accusations of a federal cover up. If you’re already reading this before seeing the movie, it’s nearly too late. Do yourself a favor and don't read anything more about the film before you go in. This is a movie that needs to be taken in with a blank and open mind to be appreciated.
Rotten Tomatoes: With its combination of a government conspiracy, extraterrestrial visitors, and the foreboding climes of Alaska, The Fourth Kind seemingly has all the elements in place for a gripping horror flick. Too bad the execution's so clumsy, critics say. Milla Jovovich stars as a shrink whose patients all tell her similar tales of nighttime frights; could aliens be to blame? The pundits say The Fourth Kind has some decent shocks, but its gimmicky presentation -- a split screen technique in which patients describe their experiences alongside pseudo-documentary footage of the events -- doesn't quite come off, and the performances are uneven.
Nov 26 – Disney’s A Christmas Carol: US, Animation/ Drama/ Family/ Fantasy – 96 mins – Starring Jim Carrey, GaryOldman, Colin Firth, and Bob Hoskins. Director Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express) continues to work his holiday magic. This 3-D adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic uses the motion capture technology previously seen in the filmmaker's Beowulf. Mixed or average reviews: 55/56 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is one of literature's most haunting morality tales -- and one of the most adapted. Critics are largely split on two key aspects of Robert Zemeckis' motion-capture version starring Jim Carrey: whether it honors the, ahem, spirit of Dickens' classic, and whether the motion-capture technology is aesthetically appealing. No need to rehash the plot; if you've never heard the tale of mean ol' Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey) and his long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit (Gary Oldman), get thee to a library immediately. While some find Zemeckis' live action/animation hybrid an enchanting way of updating a seasonal classic, others feel the visuals bog down the classic tale with an overabundance of empty action.