Golden Globes Best Drama: Avatar!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, January 21, 2010
… through Wednesday, January 27
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bet: Avatar.
Special showings: (see details below)
“Payap Air” at Payap University – a series of 5 films on the Atmosphere, Biosphere, and Society, beginning this afternoon (Thursday, January 21) at 5 pm with Home (2009) by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. A breathtaking view of planet Earth showing its awesome beauty and its signs of early death.
BAFTA Awards: Feb 22 Thai time. (The British “Oscars” by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
Oscar nominations for Academy Awards announced: Tue Feb 2 at 5:30 pm Thai time.
Academy Awards: Mar 8 at 8 am Thai time. Arrivals show at 6 am.
This is Issue Number 12 of Volume 5 of these listings, our fifth year!
Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays, except for premium films.
From left, Sam Worthington, James Cameron,
Zoe Saldana, Jon Landau and
Sigourney Weaver of Avatar.
The Golden Globes last Sunday awarded the Best Picture, Drama prize to Avatar, and its director James Cameron was named Best Director. Now playing in Chiang Mai; see it! This raises the prospects for the film at the Oscars coming February 2 (Thai time). In accepting the award, Cameron said: “Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other, and us to the Earth. And if you have to go four-and-a-half light years to another, made-up planet to appreciate this miracle of the world that we have right here, well, you know what, that's the wonder of cinema right there; that's the magic.” Yeah!
The award for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy went to The Hangover, a Las Vegas-set comedy about a bachelor party gone very wrong which came out last July but never made it here, though it did play Pattaya. The acting prize for musical and comedy went to Meryl Streep for the Julia Child story Julie & Julia. Posters for the film are now up at Airport Plaza. Best actor, musical and comedy, went to Robert Downey Jr. for the crime romp Sherlock Holmes, now playing here. The best animated film was the delightful Up, which played here last June. Best supporting actor went to Christoph Waltz for his brilliant turn playing a suave Nazi in Inglourious Basterds, which played here in August.
We’re really entering Oscar season now, and therefore we should be in for some good pictures in the next few months, as Major Cineplex, as it did last year, is on a campaign to make you think of Major Cineplex whenever you think of movies, and thus they try to identify strongly with the Oscars, making you believe that every Oscar contender or eventual winner you can see at a Major Cineplex. And for the most part, it’s true.
Four films that were shut out unaccountably at the Golden Globes are strong contenders for Oscar prizes. All four of them right now are scheduled to open in a bunch on February 25 in Chiang Mai: Up in the Air, Invictus, The Hurt Locker, and The Book of Eli. Those dates are sure to change. Details of these films can be found below.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: US, Animation/ Family– 90 mins – I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve seen it and it’s quite enjoyable! Generally favorable reviews: 66/64 out of 100.I thought it would be shown in3D,but I was wrong; Avatar continues in the 3D cinema.
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.
* The Spy Next Door: US, Action/ Comedy/ Family – 92 mins – With Jackie Chan. A sad little movie, built entirely to set up Chan’s stunt sequences as he fights with pots, pans, and ladders. There are many better ways to entertain your kids for an afternoon than shelling out for this. Generally unfavorable reviews: 30/30 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Not since the days of Buster Keaton has anyone combined slapstick comedy with astonishing stunt work quite like Jackie Chan. However, critics say his talents are risibly misused in The Spy Next Door, a flat, witless family action/comedy. Chan stars as a former CIA agent who retires after marrying a widow with three kids, but is forced back into action when he and the little urchins are threatened by evil spies who are hell-bent on world destabilization. The reviewers say The Spy Next Door is one of Chan's worst ever, a juvenile, generic, sticommy mess that utterly fails to thrill or amuse.
Mulan / Hua Mulan: US/ China, Adventure/ Drama/ Romance – 114 mins – Based on the Chinese folk heroine Hua Mulan. When her country is threatened by invaders, a young girl sneaks away from home and dresses up as a man to join an all-male army where she eventually assumes a historically critical role in defending her nation in a time of war. At Airport Plaza only, and in a Thai-dubbed version only with no English subtitles.
Kru Bann-Nok / ครูบ้านนอกบ้านหนองฮีใหญ่ / To Sir With Love: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 90 mins – The life of a volunteer teacher determined to teach children in the Isan backcountry. This is a remake which director Surasee Patham has made of his own classic 1978 social drama Kru Bannok (The Rural Teacher). An idealistic new teacher comes to an impoverished rural schoolhouse in 1970s Isaan. There, he runs afoul of the local powers-that-be for being so daring as to try and educate the country kids. There are no English subtitles. There are, however, Central Thai subtitles, as the film is in an Isan dialect unfamiliar to most Thais. The film is homage to Isan life: most of the cast are from Isan, as is the director. No relationship to the 1967 Sidney Poitier film.
Yak Dai Yin Wa Rak Kan / อยากได้ยินว่ารักกัน/Best Supporting Actor: Thai, Drama/ Romance – 115 mins – Director: Alongkod Eurpaiboon. The top film in Thailand over this last weekend. It’s a romantic comedy-drama about two childhood friends, one of whom was always in the shadow of his better-looking, more-popular friend. And when they grow into adults, nothing changes. A minor variation on the standard Thai rom/com, exploiting the inscrutable mysteries of the Thai courtship rituals.
Bodyguards and Assassins / Shi yue wei cheng / 十月圍城: China/ Hong Kong, Action/ Drama/ History – 139 mins – Dr. Sun Yat-sen, "father of modern China", came to the British colony Hong Kong in the beginning of the 20th Century, for just one morning to meet a dozen revolutionaries from all over China to plan a major insurgence to overthrow the Qing imperial dynasty and form the first republic in China. Waiting for him is an army of assassins deployed from the imperial palace. He needed an hour with the fellow revolutionaries and that hour was critical because it would lay a foundation for a successful revolution. In order to provide him with the best possible chance of success, the local revolutionaries set up a decoy with a double going all over town, including visiting his aged mother. The first 80 minutes set up the story and establish the characters; the last hour is all gut-spilling action. It’s at Vista only, and unfortunately shown in a Thai-dubbed version only with no English subtitles.
Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 162 mins – Golden Globes winner, best drama and best director. Director James Cameron 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 want to see. The film delivers on all counts. Highly recommended; not to be missed. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84/76 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 once a day now. 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| 14:55| 18:15| 21:35| weekdays. 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|.
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.
Sherlock Holmes: US/UK/ Australia, Action/ Adventure/ Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – Golden Globes best actor award went to Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. This is a new take on the Holmes canon. Once you get over the shock of seeing Sherlock played as an action figure, it isn’t all that bad. A bit of the old Holmes shows through. Purists, however, will not be amused. Jude Law plays the stalwart Watson. Mixed or average reviews: 57/58 out of 100.
32 Thun-Wah / 32 ธันวา: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 120 mins – Yet another Thai “rom/com” with this one taking place on the 32nd of December. A young man with amnesia has forgotten which of his three girlfriends he truly loves.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, January 28, 2010
It looks as though Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, delayed and rescheduled time and again, and lately announced for this date, has completely disappeared from all schedules. Drat! I was looking forward to it.
Tai Hong / ตายโหง: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – This omnibus film consists of 4 short shocking stories of death and horror. Directed by Poj Arnon.
And looking forward:
Feb 11, 2010 – The Wolfman: UK/ US, Horror/ Thriller – 125 mins – Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving; directed by Joe Johnston. I think the trailers look exciting! And stylish! Rated R in the US for bloody horror violence and gore.
The plot, as explained by the studio.
Universal Pictures: Inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolfman brings the myth of a cursed man back to its iconic origins. Oscar Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins), Talbot sets out to find his brother...and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.
Lawrence Talbot's childhood ended the night his mother died. After he left the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor, he spent decades recovering and trying to forget. But when his brother's fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns home to join the search. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable bloodlust has been killing the villagers, and that a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline (Hugo Weaving) has come to investigate.
As he pieces together the gory puzzle, he hears of an ancient curse that turns the afflicted into werewolves when the moon is full. Now, if he has any chance at ending the slaughter and protecting the woman he has grown to love, Talbot must destroy the vicious creature in the woods surrounding Blackmoor. But as he hunts for the nightmarish beast, a simple man with a tortured past will uncover a primal side to himself...one he never imagined existed.
Feb 25, 2010 – Up in the Air: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 109 mins – Led by charismatic performances by its three leads, director Jason Reitman delivers a smart blend of humor and emotion with just enough edge for mainstream audiences. Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 83/81 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) spends less time at home than he does flying around the nation, doing the dirty work for companies too gutless to fire their employees. As he approaches his goal of racking up 10,000,000 frequent flyer miles, Bingham meets two women (Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick) who will toss his priorities… well, you know. Up in the Air certainly has a lot to live up to: movie based on novel by cult author Walter Kirn, awards season release, and certainly writer/director Jason Reitman's track record. Reitman's previous efforts, Thank You for Smoking and Juno, are rare movies that double as being smart and box office triumphs. He's hoping for a triple with Up in the Air, which would likely establish him as a true American voice in film. This also could be a landmark picture for Clooney, who's been fashioning a late career of fascinating movies with intermittent box office success. Festival reviews so far strongly suggest this is the one that'll connect Clooney's dramatic indulgences to a deep, but accessible movie that'll get everyone talking and debating.
Feb 25, 2010 – Invictus: US, Biography/ Drama/ History/ Sport – 133 mins – Starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Clint Eastwood; directed by Clint Eastwood. Delivered with typically stately precision from director Clint Eastwood, Invictus may not be rousing enough for some viewers, but Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman inhabit their real-life characters with admirable conviction. Generally favorable reviews: 74/71 out of 100.
Description from the studio, Warner Bros: The film tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar, to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa’s underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match.
Rotten Tomatoes: Seriously, how does Clint Eastwood do it? He's 79 and not only is he more productive than filmmakers a third his age, he's making better movies than them too. Invictus looks to be yet another major Oscar contender, with Eastwood riding on this drama about Nelson Mandela's brilliant idea of using the Rugby World Cup to unite his country. . . . Eastwood’s body of work is one of the richest, most eclectic in cinematic history.
Feb 25, 2010 – The Hurt Locker: US, Action/ Drama/ Thriller/ War – 131 mins – A well-acted, intensely shot, action filled war epic, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is thus far the best of the recent dramatizations of the Iraq War. Rated R in the US for war violence and language. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 94/84 out of 100.
Description from the studio, Summit Entertainment: The Hurt Locker is a riveting, suspenseful portrait of the courage under fire of the military’s most unrecognized heroes: the technicians of the bomb squad, who volunteer to challenge the odds and save lives in one of the world’s most dangerous places. Three members of the Army’s elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squad battle insurgents and each other as they seek out and disarm a wave of roadside bombs on the streets of Baghdad -- in order to try and make the city a safer place for Iraqis and Americans alike. Their mission is clear - protect and save - but it’s anything but easy, for the margin of error on a war-zone bomb is zero. A thrilling and heart-thumping look at the effects of combat and danger on the human psyche, The Hurt Locker is based on the first-hand observations of journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, who was embedded with a special bomb unit in Iraq.
Visionary director Kathryn Bigelow brings together groundbreaking realistic action and intimate human drama in a gripping film. With a visual and emotional intensity that makes audiences feel like they have been transported to Iraq¹s dizzying, 24-hour turmoil, The Hurt Locker is both a tense portrayal of real-life sacrifice and heroism, and a probing look at the soul-numbing rigors and potent allure of the modern battlefield.
Feb 25, 2010 – The Book of Eli: US, Action/ Adventure/Drama/Thriller/ Western – 118 mins – It's certainly uneven, and many viewers will find that its reach exceeds its grasp, but The Book of Eli finds the Hughes brothers injecting some fresh stylish fun into the kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland filmgoers have seen more than enough of lately. Rated R in the US for some brutal violence and language. Mixed or average reviews: 52/54 out of 100.
From the studio, Warner Bros: In the not-too-distant future, some 30 years after the final war, a solitary man walks across the wasteland that was once America. Empty cities, broken highways, seared earth--all around him, the marks of catastrophic destruction. There is no civilization here, no law. The roads belong to gangs that would murder a man for his shoes, an ounce of water...or for nothing at all.
But they're no match for this traveler.
A warrior not by choice but necessity, Eli (Denzel Washington) seeks only peace but, if challenged, will cut his attackers down before they realize their fatal mistake. It's not his life he guards so fiercely but his hope for the future; a hope he has carried and protected for 30 years and is determined to realize. Driven by this commitment and guided by his belief in something greater than himself, Eli does what he must to survive--and continue.
Only one other man in this ruined world understands the power Eli holds, and is determined to make it his own: Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the self-appointed despot of a makeshift town of thieves and gunmen. Meanwhile, Carnegie's adopted daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) is fascinated by Eli for another reason: the glimpse he offers of what may exist beyond her stepfather's domain.
But neither will find it easy to deter him. Nothing--and no one--can stand in his way. Eli must keep moving to fulfill his destiny and bring help to a ravaged humanity.
Rotten Tomatoes: For those who like their religious parables with plenty of fire and brimstone, The Book of Eli should be up your alley. That said, most critics say Eli is a bit of a muddle. Denzel Washington stars as the title character who, even though he walks through a post-apocalyptic, illiterate wasteland, will fear no man, for he carries the last known copy of the Good Book -- as well as plenty of deadly weaponry. Standing in his way is the frontier-town despot Carnegie (Gary Oldman), who wants to get his hand on the book. The reviewers say The Book of Eli has its moments, adding some originality to the recent glut of cinematic dystopias. However, others say it's awfully inconsistent, and never quite achieves the grandeur it's aiming for.
The Lovely Bones was scheduled for Feb 4, but has now been rescheduled for Mar 18. Since it’s gotten less than glowing reviews, maybe it will never show.
Mar 18, 2010 – The Lovely Bones: US/ UK/ New Zealand, Crime/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – 135 mins – A great name for a film! There’s a poster for this up at Vista, and several people have asked me what this movie is about. Well, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, SusanSarandon, and Saoirse Ronan (from Atonement). And it’s directed by Peter Jackson, who is returning to the kind of drama he dished out in 1994 with Heavenly Creatures, which earned him the respect of cineastes worldwide. But he's taking what he's learned between then and now (namely, how to use CGI spectacle and bombast to enhance a story) and applying them into Bones' crucial scenes set in the afterlife, where 14-year old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) narrates from after she is raped and dismembered. It's a morality tale as Salmon struggles to balance emotions of vengeance for her killer and sympathy for her family. Jackson's done dark dramas and he's been pushing the emotional boundaries of scenes founded on CGI (remember King Kong ice skating in Central Park?), but here, say the early reviews, though full of Peter Jackson's typically dazzling imagery, The Lovely Bones suffers from abrupt shifts between horrific violence and sentimentality. Mixed or average reviews: 42/49 out of 100.