Will you find Paranormal Activity too scary to finish?
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, January 7, 2010
… through Wednesday, January 13
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Avatar. Paranormal Activity. Sherlock Holmes.
This is Issue Number 10 of Volume 5 of these listings, our fifth year!
Picture at right is from Avatar.
Major Cineplex has a special: All regular seats 60 baht on Wednesdays, except for premium films.
Another note about Avatar: I just saw Avatar once again – in 2D in Cinema 6 at Airport Plaza, and I am struck again by what a superb work of popular moviemaking it is! It is very well plotted, and I particularly noted this time how efficient the script was, usually establishing character and motivations in just a few short lines. Everything, including the screen composition, works together to keep very clear what’s happening, and what the basic situation is. I appreciate that.
And it all wraps up as a grand adventure, with many of the mythic elements that have been working on audiences since the time of Homer. Don’t miss it. See it either in 2D in Chiang Mai, or in 3D IMAX in Bangkok. The bigger the screen, the better.
Cirque du Freak didn’t show this week – who knows what happened. However ParanormalActivity did show up, without warning. The ways of the movie schedulers are indeed unknowable.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* 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: 68/70 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.
San FranciscoChronicle, Peter Hartlaub: A few people in the audience were laughing during the first half of the film. No one was laughing during the long walk out of the theater.
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.
The Film Stage, Emily Hillard: But is the reality more than good direction? Rumor has it that after hearing the huge buzz of the 2006 original, director Steven Spielberg took a copy of the DVD home to see the film for himself and while viewing it, his bedroom door locked itself from the inside, and needed a locksmith to open it. The experience supposedly jarred him so much that he returned the DVD to the studio in a garbage bag. It might not even be a true story, but for a film thought to be “laughably fake”, one wonders why audiences have been reported to walk out of test screenings claiming it was too scary to finish.
Can a low-budget film contain such raw emotion and horror that it is too scary for some viewers? Or is there truly some paranormal activity somehow embedded in the film? There’s only one way to find out.
An interesting note: There are three endings to the film; the theatrical ending which we see here, the original 2007 ending, and the "Unrated" ending. The theatrical ending was suggested by director Steven Spielberg. For a discussion of the differences, click here.
* Bodyguards and Assassins / Shi yue wei cheng / 十月圍城: China, Action/ Drama/ History – The film dramatizes the efforts of a group of martial artists to protect Dr. Sun Yat-sen, popularly referred to as the Father of Modern China, from an assassination attempt while visiting Hong Kong to raise funds at the beginning of the 20th century. Directed by Teddy Chan, this is an action/drama film featuring an all-star Chinese cast including Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, and Nicholas Tse. Unfortunately shown in a Thai-dubbed version only with no English subtitles. At Vista only.
Twitch, James Marsh: Those expecting [the usual] period action epic may be left wanting by Teddy Chen'sBodyguards and Assassins. The director takes his time to develop characters, position them carefully within a clear historical context, and fully explore their relationship to each other and personal politics, before letting them off the leash to wreak bloody carnage.
Hong Kong, circa 1906, is fantastically recreated on screen, thanks to a combination of vast outdoor sets seamlessly complimented by CGI landscapes. And it is here where the influence and involvement of producer Peter Chan Ho Sun can be most acutely felt. Bodyguards and Assassins boasts lavish production values, bringing a much-needed authenticity to the proceedings that director Chen effectively capitalizes on to build atmosphere, tension and an intricate web of characters.
Suffice to say that the film is more of a political drama than is perhaps hinted at in the film's marketing, but an engrossing and highly effective one. The context of this turbulent and volatile period of Chinese history is carefully executed and Chen ensures the drama is always placed ahead of any particular political agenda. And ultimately it is all for the audience's benefit. The second half is a tense and riveting piece of action cinema featuring some impressive fight sequences and numerous wince-inducing moments of bone-crushing violence, certainly worthy of the foundations so deliberately laid before it.
* Bang-Earn-Rak-Mai-Sin-Sud / As It Happens / บังเอิญรักไม่สิ้นสุด: Thai, Drama/ Romance – 120 mins – A romantic comedy about a young man and woman who keep running into each other in various far-off places around the world. At Airport Plaza only and in Thai only with no English subtitles.
Dara Thai: Do accidents exist? Or is everything that happens in this world destined to happen. Is there really any way to know or find out the difference? That is what Pik and John must figure out in บังเอิญ… รักไม่สิ้นสุด / Bung Earn… Ruk Mai Sin Soot / Coincidentally… Love That Never Ends or officially translated as As It Happens, when they come to realize that no matter what part of the world they are, the two end up running into each other at important moments in their lives. Is it fate? Or is it coincidence?
Wise Kwai: As It Happens was supposed to open last Wednesday as one of the last two Thai movies of 2009. But for whatever reason, it never showed up. It's now one of the first Thai films of 2010.
The romantic comedy is about a young man (Nawin Yaowaphonkul) and woman (Nattaveernuj Thongme) who keep bumping into each other in various places around the world at various important stages of their lives. It's directed by industry veteran Udom Udomroj, who's best known for his 1994 vampire romance Khoo Thae Song Loke (คู่แท้สองโลก). He also directed 2006's monastic comedy The Golden Riders (Ma Gap Phra).
Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 162 mins – Still leading the pack at the US boxoffice, and apparently most of the world. But here in Thailand it seemingly is not doing all that well. This last weekend the Thai rom/com 32 Tan-Wah displaced it in top spot.
Nevertheless, 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 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 three times 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| 15:00| 18:25| 21:50| 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.
New York Times, A. O. Scott: Holmes has never been much for physical violence, and the chief innovation of this new, franchise-ready incarnation, directed by Guy Ritchie and played by Robert Downey Jr., is that he is, in addition to everything else, a brawling, head-butting, fist-in-the-gut, knee-in-the-groin action hero. A smart one, for sure, and as played by Mr. Downey, with his characteristic twitchy wit and haggard insouciance, he has more intelligence than the movie knows what to do with
32 Tan-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. Stars singer DanWorrawech[shown here] who was the patient in the nicely scary segment “Ward” in the film anthology Phobia 2 earlier this year.
The Storm Warriors 2 / Storm Riders 2: The Storm Warriors/ Fung wan II / 风云II: HongKong, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy – 112 mins – A film produced and directed by the twins Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, The Storm Warriors is described as a martial arts/wuxia film, andis the first Chinese film to extensively use bluescreen – and do they make the most of it! Shot entirely in three studios in Bangkok, it’s really a special effects movie. Such as an army of flying creatures that reminded me of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz; they’re defeated by being first changed into what looks like obsidian, and then smashed into slivers. Very effective. As is the terrific makeup. So, yes, the style is truly great; the substance questionable. In this sequel, the heroes of the first film, Wind and Cloud, find themselves up against a ruthless Japanese warlord intent on invading China. Unfortunately, it’s presented in a Thai-dubbed version only, with no English subtitles. But I loved the visuals, and the fantasy. At Vista only.
The Treasure Hunter / Ci Ling / 刺陵: Taiwan, Romance/ Sci-Fi – 90 mins – A story about time-traveling lovers in Genghis Khan's Mongolia. “In the northwest desert where countless prosperous dynasties have flourished and fallen, there is rumor of a buried treasure of unbelievable riches. A group of mysterious guardians have kept the map to the location of the treasure safe, until a fierce rivalry erupts. A notorious international crime group, The Company, hunts down the map keepers, but before they manage to get it, the keeper passes the map to a young and chivalrous man named Ciao Fei [Qiao Fei], played by pop star-turned-actor Jay Chou. Ciao Fei is forced to give up the map to save the life of his mentor's daughter Lan Ting (former supermodel Lin Chi Ling). Joining up with a famous archaeologist and Lan Ting, the three embark on a dangerous journey to recover the map and fight to protect the ancient treasure.” AtAirport Plaza only, in a Thai-dubbed version with no English subtitles.
Moviexclusive, Linus Tee: In a role that is tailored to showcase his aura of 'coolness' to the maximum, Jay Chou plays Ciao Fei, a treasure protector who must rescue Lin Chi Ling, the kidnapped daughter of his boss. An immensely dreary affair.
Poppysmic: What were the cast and crew thinking when they made this movie? Didn’t anyone at any point in time stop to look at the footage and think to themselves “What have we done?”
Did You Hear About the Morgans?: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 103 mins – Starring: Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen. Generally unfavorable reviews: 27/29 out of 100.
Seattle Times, Moira Macdonald: Grant and Parker play an estranged New York power couple who have the great misfortune of witnessing a murder and thus becoming the immediate targets of a hit man. They're whisked into the witness protection program and sent to Ray, Wyo., a place populated by bears, rodeo cowboys and no Saks Fifth Avenue. And, well ... nothing much happens for the next 90 minutes.
Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore: Painful to watch.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, January 14, 2010
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 defends her father by sneaking away from home and dressing up as a man to join an all-male army where she eventually assumes an historically critical role in defending her nation in a time of war. Director: Jingle Ma, Writer: Ting Zhang.
Kru Bann-Nok / ครูบ้านนอกบ้านหนองฮีใหญ่ / To Sir With Love: Thai, Comedy – 90 mins – “The life of a volunteer teacher who determines to teach children in the backcountry, and fight against the outlaw that wants to claim his life.” Written and directed by Surasri Padham.
And looking forward:
Jan 21, 2010 – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: US, Animation/ Family – 90 mins – I know it sounds crazy, but the buzz is that it’s quite enjoyable. Generally favorable reviews: 66/64 out of 100.
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.
Jan 21, 2010 – The Spy Next Door: US, Action/ Comedy/ Family – With Jackie Chan. “Former CIA spy Bob Ho (Chan) takes on his toughest assignment to date: looking after his girlfriend's three kids, who haven't exactly warmed to their mom's beau. And when one of the youngsters accidentally downloads a top-secret formula, Bob's longtime nemesis, a Russian terrorist, pays a visit to the family.”