The Wolfman still prowls and howls after 70 years! Kung Fu in partial 3D!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, February 18, 2010
… through Wednesday, February 24
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Avatar. The Wolfman. Percy Jackson.
BAFTA Awards: Feb 22 Thai time. (The British “Oscars” by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts).
Academy Awards (the “Oscars”):Mar 8 at 8 am Thai time on the “E!” channel on True Visions (silver and platinum packages only). Actual awards show itself starts at 8:30 am. Arrivals show begins 6 am.
Or, you can watch a delayed and edited version on a big screen at the RatiLanna Riverside Spa Resort, beginning at 6:30 pm on Mar 8 as a benefit for Care for Dogs Foundation. One of Chiang Mai’s most avid film fans, Tim McGuire, will be your host. Welcome cocktails, soft drinks, and a buffet are included in the 750 baht price of the ticket, with all proceeds going to Care for Dogs Foundation. The venue is made possible by the generosity of the RatiLanna Resort. For information go to the foundation’s website at
The 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok: Nov 5 to 14, 2010.
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: sometime in November also, exact date uncertain.
This is Issue Number 16 of Volume 5 of these listings, in our fifth year!
Special showing: (see details below)
“Payap Air” at Payap University – a series of 5 films on the Atmosphere, Biosphere, and Society, which began January 21 and has run every Thursday at 5 pm through today, February 18. Today’s screening is the last of the series, a series which basically documented the upcoming death of civilization as we have come to know it on Planet Earth. Today’s film: What a Way to Go, in which a middle-class guy comes to grips with it all – with “Peak Oil,” climate change, mass extinction, and the demise of the American lifestyle.
For me it’s the most personal film in the series, and in addition to giving a crash course in all the impending disasters facing the world, it comes up with the way the filmmaker, Timothy Bennett, has found to deal with it, and which he encourages others to adopt. What it is may surprise you. Taking it as a given that it is probably already too late (I happen to think it’s definitely already too late), and that those in power are going to do nothing to prevent the disasters before us, what does an individual do to face either the worst possible scenario, or the best (which is none too good either)?
It’s been an excellent series, only modestly attended, which should be repeated in town. We all need to see films like these over and over again, until the message sinks in, and we change.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
Note: This week’s scheduled Shutter Island turns out to be a no-show throughout Thailand. I was looking forward to this horror fantasy directed by Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, and Max von Sydow. It’s disappeared from Major Cineplex’s list of upcoming films. A disappointment.
* True Legend / Su Qi-Er / 苏乞儿 / ยาจกซูตำนานหมัดเมา: China,Action/Drama/ History – 115 mins – So Chan, or Su Qi-Er, a wealthy man living during the Qing Dynasty loses his fortune and reputation as a result of a conspiracy against him. After being forced out onto the streets, Su dedicates his life to martial arts and reemerges as a patriotic hero. With David Carradine, Jay Chou, and Michelle Yeoh.
Shown in 2D at Vista in a Thai-dubbed version only, no English subtitles. At Airport Plaza it’s shown in partial 3D; it’s advertised as being in English with Thai subtitles, but I doubt that. The film was made in Mandarin. If I were you I’d check at the boxoffice, assuming the people there know. As to the 3D aspect, it’s a little misleading to call it a 3D film, as there are only two 3D sequences, one involves Vincent Zhao and Jay Chou at the Ten Thousand Buddha Cliffs (Wan Fuo Ya), and another is the final battle between Vincent Zhao and Andy On. The total time of the 3D scenes is about 18 minutes. The two 3D action sequences are actually cut into many small 3D segments; theaudience is instructed to put on and take off the 3D glasses during viewing. Director Yuen Woo-Ping said they wanted to make the film entirely 3D, but that would have cost several million dollars more and another five years to complete. Some theaters in China decided not to show the 3D version in order to avoid the possible damage to the glasses due to the frequent putting them on and taking them off.
The film features one of the final performances by actor David Carradine, who died in a bizarre accident in Bangkok during post-production.
Dark Horizons: Though initially rising to fame in Asia as director of several important action films like the Iron Monkey and Drunken Master series, Yuen Woo-Pingseemingly retired from the directing chair in 1996 to focus on action choreography in such international hits as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Matrix and Kill Bill.
This Chinese-Hong Kong martial arts effort marks his first time in the director's chair in nearly fifteen years. … The first trailers are pure action with some impressive fist fight and stunts; however the fantasy elements look decidedly on the silly side. The late David Carradine has a supporting role in this which will be bittersweet, but it's Michelle Yeoh's involvement that widens the film's Western appeal.
* Little Big Soldier / ใหญ่พลิกแผ่นดินฟัด: China/Hong Kong, Action/Adventure/ Comedy – 85 mins – An old soldier kidnaps the young general of an enemy state and takes him on a long journey to collect the reward.The role of the Little (Young) Soldier was originally written for Jackie Chan (and by Jackie Chan), who came up with the idea of the story Little Big Soldier 20 years ago. However, it took 20 years to wrap up the script, and now Jackie Chan is cast as the Big (elder) Soldier instead. The film is also produced as well as written by Jackie Chan. Shown at Airport Plaza only in a Thai-dubbed version only, no English subtitles.
The Wolfman: UK/ US, Horror/ Thriller – 110 mins – I consider this an excellent spare, dark, and brooding Gothic version of the famous tale, told with great style and much blood. For those who like Gothic straight-up horror and blood, this is a welcome new and classic $85 million remake of the 1941 Lon Chaney movie.
Starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins. Rated R in the US for bloody horror violence and gore; 18+ in Thailand. Vista has a Thai-dubbed version as well as an English version. Mixed or average reviews: 45/48 out of 100.
Dark Horizons, Garth Franklin: Saddled with one of the most troubled production histories in recent memory, the new incarnation of The Wolfman manages to salvage enough material to be a barely coherent, often inconsistent film that fails to generate any of the emotions it so desperately wants to evoke. Oddly flat despite a strong cast and evocative late 19th century setting, this attempted blending of a classic tragic romance with a very gory, modern creature feature feels short-changed in all departments.
Unlike say Dracula or Frankenstein which had their births in literary form over a century ago, The Wolfman first came into being with the 1941 Lon Chaney Jr. film and gave birth to much of the popular lore that surrounds werewolves. Thus this remake had the chance to expand or play with the original's mythology in ways that wouldn't be accepted in adaptations of other more established monster legends.
To their credit, those involved seem to have initially set out with an admirable desire to stick with the archetypes of true Victorian Gothic fiction - that often haunting blend of melodrama, encroaching insanity, and quiet dread mixed with a mild satire of a society built on aristocracy and superstitious beliefs which were dissolving in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.
Of course that style of filmmaking is too old-fashioned for many these days, requiring a deliberate pacing with slow build-ups and quietly delivered revelations (The Others and The Orphanage are strong modern examples of that style done well). It's a genre of great subtlety that requires a steady hand and understanding of restraint - not something you get from either Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self's undercooked screenplay, or from Jumanji director Joe Johnston.
To be fair to Johnston, the man was brought in at the last minute to essentially rescue the film and so employs his usual style which works fine for unremarkable but enjoyable spectacles like Jurassic Park III and Hidalgo. For Gothic horror though it’s almost in direct opposition, and this blunter approach was likely reinforced by financiers and studios understandably nervous about a multi-million dollar horror film with limited appeal.
The inevitable result is the awkward insertion of hastily assembled action set pieces, visually graphic dismemberment and a lot (and I mean a LOT) of 'jump scare' hallucinations and nightmares to keep people awake and get the horror junkies on side with it. Yet in the process it fails to please both sides - the gory action is just so over the top and clunky that it only disgusts rather than thrills, while the unfolding story is far too unfocused and tedious to be of interest to even the most patient filmgoer.
There's the distinct impression of a stronger and more focused version of the film existing somewhere (either on paper or on reels) that has been defanged by not just the production's problems but a ruthless 'editing by committee' process.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: Canada/ US, Adventure/ Fantasy – 119 mins – The Mount Olympus gods are not happy: Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen, and high school student Percy Jackson is the prime suspect in this sprawling and entertaining teen adventure. As Percy finds himself caught between angry and battling gods, he and his two close friends embark on an adventure to catch the true lightning thief, and return the lightning to Zeus. Logan Lerman as Percy is an excellent new teenaged hero like Harry Potter, but for me a lot more interesting and with a lot more charisma; a sequel is already announced for next year. Stay around for an additional short scene during the closing credits. Mixed or average reviews: 48/52 out of 100.
A sequel is already announced for next year. Stay around for one short additional scene during the closing credits.
Urban Cinefile, Andrew L. Urban: It's a rich film, filled with detail, but never buried by it, and it works both as a primer for Greek mythology and a vibrant fantasy.
Sunday Courier Mail, Ben McEachen: Enjoyable and creative, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief yearns to be the first in a successful series of movies based on a successful series of books. There is passion and spark to Percy Jackson which warrants sequels. Lerman is bound for stardom and his dorky swagger charges a viable hero.
Film Ink, Andrew McMurty: Logan Lerman plays Percy with impressive teenage charisma finding the right balance between his character's misfit loner demeanor and his spirited sense of adventure. Lerman proves he can hold his own against a cast which includes Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, and Rosario Dawson, who all make welcome appearances. And with at least four more books to turn into films, Lerman and the Percy Jackson franchise look like they will be around for a while yet.
Valentine’s Day: US, Comedy/ Romance – Critics have been unkind to this story of intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles as they break-up and make-up from the pressures and expectations of Valentine's Day. It’s a huge hit in the US. Directed by Garry Marshall, with a star-studded ensemble, including Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Shirley MacLaine, Bradley Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah. Generally unfavorable reviews: 34/37 out of 100.
Confucius / Kong Zi / 孔子 / ขงจื๊อ: China, Biography/ Drama – 108 mins – Set in 6th Century BC, this is the life story of the Chinese thinker and philosopher, from his days as a court official through battles and political intrigues, to his old age as a disillusioned sage. But China has adopted the Hollywood way of pumping up the romantic and action-related angles of the man, even casting an action hero (Chow Yun-Fat) as the man himself, and portraying him as romantically attracted to a concubine. Shown in Chiang Mai only in a Thai-dubbed version, with no English subtitles.
IMDb viewer: It's a fascinating and emotional story about the later years of Confucius, played by Hong Kong-actor Chow Yun-Fat. It shows the man behind the myth. I was very impressed with Chow's acting. I knew he was a great actor but this role is another milestone in his career. His Confucius is warm and gentle and you really feel his emotions. For his performance alone this film is worth watching.
IMDb viewer: A piece of less than subtle propaganda. As a film, this is middling, a little dull, neither atrocious nor sublime.
Screen Daily at Sundance Film Festival, Darcy Paquet: Chow Yun-fat is the main attraction in Confucius, a ponderous and weakly-imagined attempt at repackaging the ancient sage for the blockbuster era. Hu Mei’s film includes both battle sequences and an attempted seduction of the legendary philosopher in hopes of drawing mainstream audiences, but a lack of narrative development results in a film that is neither entertaining nor enlightening.
Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 162 mins – Nine Oscar nominations. Now the highest grossing film in the world ever, bypassing the director’s own Titanic. It’s a very good film. It has ages-old, sure-fire plotlines that strike a lot of sensitive spots in the human psyche. Director James Cameron has produced a major achievement as well as atechnological breakthrough. It’s gotten near-universal reviews from critics and fans. Of course it will win the Oscar! Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84/76 out of 100.
Right: Stephen Lang in Avatar
This week at Major Cineplex the 3D version has disappeared, and the 2D version is back for a once-a-day showing on weekdays (at 5:30 pm). This is the version I like best here in Chiang Mai anyway, because the screen is bigger and there are English subtitles for the Na’vi language. No longer playing at Vista.
My Valentine / Laew Rak Kor Mun Rob Tua Rao / แล้วรัก...ก็หมุนรอบตัวเรา: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 90 mins – Now the top film at the Thai boxoffice. A girl who hates Valentine's Day meets three young men, each determined to make her his Valentine. The usual Thai rom-com, with a mixture of cute young Thais and older TV comedians.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday,
February 25, 2010
The Hurt Locker: US, Action/ Drama/ Thriller/ War – 131 mins – No, sorry, it appears that this film is not heading for Chiang Mai. It ties with Avatar with nine nominations for the Academy Awards, but apparently it will open in Thailand on this date only in Bangkok, at the House, SF World Cinema, and Paragon Cineplex. Perhaps, depending on how it does at the Oscars, it may show here, but probably only briefly and with very little advance publicity. I will do my best to alert you. But the movie chains know what they are doing – it is not the entertainment most people want. There are no women in it, no love story, just the grim realities of war. As such I found it incredibly powerful, almost too intense to endure. Much like Saving Private Ryan for the Iraq War. Just an incredible work of film art, in all respects. But not fun. 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.
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.
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.
The Book of Eli: US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Thriller/ Western – 118 mins – The story revolves around a lone warrior (Denzel Washington) who must fight to bring society the knowledge that could be the key to its redemption. Gary Oldman portrays the despot of a small makeshift town who's determined to take possession of the book Eli's guarding. It's certainly uneven, and many viewers will find that its reach exceeds its grasp, but The Book of Eli finds the Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen) 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: 53/53 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.
Who Are You? / ใครในห้อง / ฮูอาร์ยู: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – 90 mins – Also known as “Who R U?” Veteran actress Sinjai Plengpanich (Love of Siam) stars as a mother whose son has withdrawn from social life and locked himself away in his room for five years. The only way she can communicate with her son is to write on a piece of paper and slip it under the door. This is the psychological condition of “hikikomori” andis the major plot point of the film. This thriller comes from writer Eakasit Thairatana (13 Beloved, Body #19) and director Pakphum Wonjinda (VDO Clip, Scared).