Thursday, December 3, 2009

Whats On starting December 3

Don’t miss A Christmas Carol!


Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, December 3, 2009


… through Wednesday, December 9


by Thomas Ohlson

This is Issue Number 5 of Volume 5 of these listings, into our fifth year! The first issue came out November 3, 2005.


One of the “best things that happened to Chiang Mai: Thomas Ohlson’s comprehensive current cinema movie list.”  [City Life, Jeremy Samuelson, Dec. 2008]


Picture above shows Scrooge.


Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays.


Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant is rescheduled for January 7.



Now playing in Chiang Mai    * = new this week


* Couples Retreat: US, Comedy – 113 mins – A comedy centered around four couples who settle into a tropical-island resort for a vacation. While one of the couples is there to work on the 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.


Rotten Tomatoes: Despite a talented cast and some reliably pleasant interplay between Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, Couples Retreat leaves viewers stranded in an arid, mirthless comedy.


* Yam Yasothon 2 / Yam-Ya-So-Thon 2 / Hello Yasothorn 2: Thai, Comedy – 90 mins – Thai comedy with popular comedian Mum Jokmok.


Wise Kwai: Mum Jokmok's Yam Yasothon character moves from reluctant lover to shotgun-toting dad for Yam Yasothon 2.After a brief delay earlier this year due to a fatal lightning strike on the location, Yam Yasothon 2 is on target for a December 3 release for the long weekend in celebration of His Majesty the King's birthday.


A sequel to 2005's country comedy, Yam Yasothon 2 promises more eye-scaldingly colorful outfits and a double-barrel load of down-home country humor. Janet Khiew is back as Yam's amorous wife Juei, with Mum's real-life daughter, Em Busarakam Wongkamlao, and son Mick Paytai joining the cast. There's also "Dim" Harin Suthamjaras from the rock group Tattoo Color as the romantic lead, and comedienne "Tookie" Sudarat Butrprom is in there as well. Looks like fun.


Disney’s A Christmas Carol: US, Animation/Drama/Family/ Fantasy – 96 mins – Starring Jim Carrey, directed by Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express, Beowulf) using his motion capture technology.

Brilliant! Don’t miss it if you at all like animation. Not all of it warm and comforting as you might expect from Disney, most is instead a dark and grim tale, and a faithful recreation of the Charles Dickens classic – one of literature's most haunting morality tales. Mixed or average reviews, 55/57 out of 100, but I can’t recommend it highly enough. Shown in 3D, which in this case is a marvel, and only at Airport Plaza. (There are higher prices for the 3D.)


It is, in fact, so faithful to the original text that it is a bit difficult to follow at times, since the vocabulary and the grammar are as used by Dickens. The film for the most part is leisurely presented and takes its time; some of the long passages of silence are truly scary. It has a spooky stillness about it, broken up now and again by passages of action to please the kiddies and the backers.


But talking about kiddies, it is so frightening, horrifying, and just plain scary at times that I question whether kids under 10 should be taken. Be forewarned.


It’s a remarkable piece of acting for Jim Carrey. I also have to mention the brilliant use of music, which I thought was exceptionally apt and expressive throughout, and which rises to a marvelously rousing, full-throated climax during the closing credits.


New York Times:A Christmas Carol” —the source material— remains among the most moving works of holiday literature, and Mr. Zemeckis has remained true to its finest sentiments. He is an innovator, but his traditionalism is what makes this movie work.


Slate: Nearly every line of dialogue in this adaptation of A Christmas Carol comes directly from the story. Most incongruously for a Disney holiday release that's timed to sweep family crowds into the theater, this Christmas Carol remembers that its much-recycled source material is less a children's story than a fairytale for the middle-aged. The series of affects Scrooge goes through in the course of that Christmas Eve—the sharp pain of nostalgia, the regret for irreversible mistakes, the sudden realization that life is shorter than one thought—these are not the emotions of the young. How they made it into this Disney adaptation unprettified is a Christmas miracle in itself.

Ninja Assassin: US/ Germany, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – 99 mins – A young ninja turns his back on the orphanage that raised him, leading to a confrontation with a fellow ninja from the clan. Seems to me essentially a blood-soaked combination of physical stunts and digital trickery, with the shyly expressive Korean pop star Rain, one of People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" in 2007. Not recommended, unless you’re easily delighted by ultraviolence for its own sake. Otherwise, this thinly plotted movie with low-grade thrills about a young ninja's revenge against his cruel trainers will disappoint. I found the shadowy action too often incomprehensible, except in the general sense that heads, limbs, and torsos are being severed in massive numbers. Ten minutes after you leave the movie, all the battles will have blended in your memory into a ceaseless muddle of sliced-off appendages, jets of blood splashing artfully on walls, gurgling screams, and flashing swords. But, to be honest, I guess there's a cathartic value to all the bloodletting. Rated R in the US for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language. 18+ in Thailand. Review scores have dropped - now "generally unfavorable" reviews. 34/44 out of 100.



The Twilight Saga: New Moon: US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Romance/ Thriller – 130 mins – This led at the movie box office for the second weekend in a row, but narrowly. As expected it dropped considerably in ticket sales, after a first weekend of out-and-out fan frenzy. Running on the sheer momentum of its massive opening, New Moon soared past the $200 million mark on its eighth day of release and, in the process, eclipsed its predecessor Twilight, which had a final haul of $192.8 million. That, of course, also made it the biggest vampire movie on record.

Yes, it’s a phenomenon, all right, but it’s not for me; I was bored. It’s for teenaged girls with raging hormones who want romance, not sex – very safe romance, with just the vaguest threat of titillating danger. Remember, great numbers of people like this movie. It’s really just a matter of taste.


Emanuel Levy: Like the first film, New Moon will divide film critics, and like its predecessor, the picture may be critics-proof. Calculated to a fault, Twilight proved, if nothing else, that it knows how to reach its target audiences.


Stephen King: Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good. However, it's very clear that she's writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It's exciting and it's thrilling and it's not particularly threatening because it's not overtly sexual.


If you’re a teenaged girl with raging hormones, you’ll love it! Mixed or average reviews: 44/47 out of 100. Vista has only a Thai-dubbed version.


The third movie in the series, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, is already completed, and is scheduled to arrive here June 30 of next year, or just seven months from now. Can’t you just hardly wait?



2012: US/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – 158 mins – The end of almost the whole world, as only Director Roland Emmerich can show it. Very well done indeed. The director’s had lots of practice. A Thai-dubbed version is available at both locations. Mixed or average reviews: 49/50 out of 100.



Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, December 10


Pai in Love / ปายอินเลิฟ: Thai, Romance/ Comedy – 90 mins – Thai romantic comedy directed by Tanit Jitnukul, who directed the marvelous film Samchuk released earlier this year; I was very impressed by that film, and am very fond of it. Here we have a love story about a group of friends who all happen to take a winter vacation to the same placePai. Somehow, In that small province, they all find the true meaning of love. Well, why not? In the cast is the Thai-award-winning actor, Ray MacDonald, who though Thai has some Scottish ancestry, and has a string of Thai movies to his credit.


Wise Kwai: An ensemble romantic comedy, which takes place in northern Thailand's hippie retreat, Pai.


Under the Mountain: New Zealand, Adventure/ Fantasy – 91 mins – New Zealand teen adventure/ horror film about redheaded twins battling intergalactic planet-smashers who live under the dormant volcanoes of Auckland. Actually, though I'd like to see it, I have my doubts that it will show up.


Fearnet, Scott Weinberg: Sci-fi / horror films made for early adolescents are pretty rare. Half-decent ones are rarer still. But I know for a fact that a large portion of my movie-geek generation has a strong affection for old Disney chillers like Escape to Witch Mountain, The Watcher in the Woods, and Something Wicked This Way Comes -- and obviously I bring those films up because the recent New Zealand import Under the Mountain feels a lot like those movies. Not nearly as starchy and certainly not as corny, but clearly intended for a young (at heart) movie fan who doesn't mind a little family-friendliness mixed in with his magical adventures, mystical strangers, and massive monsters.



And looking forward:


Dec 17Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 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. It’s reported “the movie is 40% live action and 60% photo-realistic CGI. A lot of motion capture technology was used for the CGI scenes.” Motion capture technology is the technology used throughout Disney’s A Christmas Carol.


Dec 24Sherlock 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


Dec 24 The Storm Warriors 2 / Storm Riders 2: The Storm Warriors / Fung wan II / 风云II: Hong Kong, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy – A film produced and directed by the twins Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, and this is cause for excitement! These two directed one of my favorite Asian films, the 2006 Re-cycle, a lovely spooky and weird concoction. 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.


It is the second live-action film adaptation of screenwriter Ma Wing-Shing's popular Chinese manhua Fung Wan, following the 1998 film The Storm Riders. The Pangs have stated that the film is not a direct sequel to The Storm Riders, but more of a stand-alone film with a separate storyline. Two of the main actors in the earlier film, Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok, shown here, reprise their roles as Wind and Cloud, who this time find themselves up against Lord Godless, a ruthless Japanese warlord bent on invading China. And a third installment for the series is in the works.

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm


The Alliance Française is currently featuring the work of Alain Resnais.


At Alliance Française on Friday, December 4:  Mon oncle d'Amérique / My American Uncle (1980) by Alain Resnais – 125 mins – France, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81 out of 100.

With Gérard Depardieu, Nicole  Garcia, Roger Pierre, Marie Dubois, Nelly Borgeaud, Pierre Arditi.



Three intersecting paths: a journalist, news editor for a radio station, a farmer’s son turned textile factory manager, and a working class girl drawn to the theatre and fashion … all under the scientific gaze of Professor Henri Laborit

Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes: Alain Resnais' Mon oncle d'Amérique may be the best all-around display of the director's unique narrative and photographic techniques. The film begins with still photographs appearing on the screen as a narrator gives a quick biography of each of the three characters in the movie: Jean, Janine, and René. They are presented first in their childhood: a picture of Jean collecting clams, a picture of Janine reciting poetry to her family, and a picture of René in his farm overalls. Then each character introduces him- or herself in young adulthood, and the film rolls as they take turns narrating their own biographies. From there, with frequent interruptions by Professor Henri Laborit, the psychiatrist who takes over as an external narrator, the film assumes the traditional third-person approach to its three subjects, following them as they marry and separate, have affairs, suffer, rejoice, have children, find success, fail miserably, and eventually meet each other. All the while, the psychiatrist-narrator adds fabulously absurd but simultaneously poignant existential explanations for why these characters do what they do. Mon oncle d'Amérique is a film in which everything has meaning. Every action, every word, each gesture, color, and feeling plays into the explanations of the psychiatrist. Thus, as the narrator explains the story, the same scenes roll several times, adding a touch of good-natured comedy to this sophisticated film.



Roger Ebert: Three children are born in France. One, Rene, is the son of struggling farmers. One, Janine, a daughter of proletarians. The third son, Jean, is born in a manor house to wealthy bourgeois. These children grow up, are educated, find occupations often against the will of their parents, and enter relationships. They don't much think of themselves as laboratory rats, but they might be surprised how consistently their behavior is consistent with the involuntary responses of a rat. This observation is not intended as an insult to them, or to the rat.


Alain Resnais' Mon oncle d'Amerique (1980) is one the New Wave pioneer's best films, a winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes. It is audacious. Beginning with big stars of the time (Gerald Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, Roger Pierre), he tells the life stories of these three in a way that promises to be traditional narrative.


Then he introduces a fourth figure. This is the much older Henri Laborit, a physician, philosopher, and expert on evolutionary psychology. Laborit differs from the others in that he isn't fictional. He plays himself, he speaks directly to the camera, he explains his theories about human behavior and how it's often illuminated by tests involving laboratory animals. He had considerable influence on American market research 50 years ago.


His involvement in the film becomes its most intriguing element, elevating melodrama to the level of rather disturbing insight. We humans are much concerned with whether or not we truly have free will. There are two popular theories: (a) everything we do is predestined, either by God or as a result of the causes and effects of the physical laws of the universe; (b) yes, we have free will, and can do as we choose, within the limits of practical possibility.


I have no idea what HenriLaborit's ideas about God are. I think he believes that our free will is more controlled than we think by instructions from the lower levels of our brain. We do our basic survival functioning at levels formed during the reptilian period, from which we all descend. Our biological behavior is often determined by the conditioning of our mammalian brains, which involve hunger, lust, courtship, territorial competition, and so on. Then humans and to a lesser degree species like chimpanzees and orangutans have a level involving more developed cerebral cortexes. This is where we do our conscious thinking: I choose to do this, but not that.


We think we choose. To some degree, we may be pre-inclined to choose, or even forced to choose.



For the remainder of this fascinating review, click here.


At Alliance Française on Friday, December 11:  On connaît la chanson / Same Old Song (1997) by Alain Resnais – 120 mins – France/ Switzerland/ UK, Comedy/ Drama/ Musical. English subtitles. Reviews: Generally favorable: 64 out of 100.


With Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma, André Dussolier, Jean Pierre Bacri, Jane Birkin, Agnès Jaoui, Lambert Wilson, Jean Pierre Darroussi.


In Paris, six characters get caught up in a web of romantic and social confusion combined with mounting misunderstandings, which force them to face their own truth. And each of them expresses their emotions through songs old and new …

– Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes: Four years before Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge, Alain Resnais made this musical love story using contemporary pop songs. The songs are used in a style similar to Moulin Rouge, as they are the portal through which the innermost feelings of love are released. Characters lip-sync to popular tunes of the day to express their emotional states. Each character is also assigned a song that acts as an anthem for them in this clever musical comedy. The story involves a Parisian woman (Sabine Azema) desperately in search of a more spacious apartment. Her sister offers the assistant of her new lover, a real estate agent. Azema not only finds living space through the agency, but romance as well.



At Alliance Française on Friday, December 18:  Cœurs / Private Fears in Public Places (2006) by Alain Resnais – 121 mins – France/ Italy, Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 77/72 out of 100.


With Pierre Arditi, Lambert Wilson, André Dussolier, Isabelle Carré, Sabine Azéma, Laura Morante, Bruno Podalydès.


In the swirling snow of the French National Library district in Paris, six characters strive to fill their empty lives. Two estate agents, a former soldier and his wife, a barman, a young woman and an old invalid try to escape the black cloud that threatens to descend...

Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes: Nominated for eight César awards in its native France, Private Fears In Public Places is an intelligent, adult look at loneliness in the twenty-first century. Directed by French master Alain Resnais, the film examines the interrelated lives of six main characters who are trying desperately but failing at making real, long-lasting connections. Charlotte (a bewitching Sabine Azéma) is a Bible-reading real estate agent who takes care of Lionel's (Pierre Arditi) vile, ailing father at night. Thierry (André Dussollier), a coworker of Charlotte's, is showing apartments to Nicole (Laura Morante) and Dan (Lambert Wilson), an engaged couple who can't agree on anything. And Gaëlle (Isabelle Carré), who lives with Thierry, her older brother, is looking for love through the personal ads but instead keeps coming home alone. Based on the play by Alan Ayckbourn, Private Fears In Public Places is beautifully shot by Eric Gautier, particularly the scenes in the colorful bar where Lionel works and Dan drinks away his frustrations. Scenes are linked together by falling snow, adding a chilling cold to the pervasive loneliness. The acting is uniformly excellent, with especially good turns from Azéma, Arditi, and Morante, who won the Francesco Pasinetti Best Actress award at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, which also awarded octogenarian Resnais the Silver Lion as Best Director. Resnais eschews modern technology in this carefully stylized world; the characters don't spend their time endlessly on computers and cell phones, and Charlotte even gives Thierry a videotape to watch, one that has been taped over many times yet still retains some of its previous recordings, as if parts of the past can never be erased


Consensus: The premise isn't anything new, but director Alain Resnais' attention to detail and smooth camerawork gives this movie a delicate edge.