Most nominations: a tie between Avatar and The Hurt Locker!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, February 4, 2010
… through Wednesday, February 10
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Avatar. The September Issue.
BAFTA Awards: Feb 22 Thai time. (The British “Oscars” by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
Academy Awards: Mar 8 at 8 am Thai time. Arrivals show at 6 am.
This is Issue Number 14 of Volume 5 of these listings, our fifth year!
At right, flying house view from Up,
nominated for best picture
Special showings: (see details below)
“Payap Air” at Payap University – a series of 5 films on the Atmosphere, Biosphere, and Society, which began January 21 and runs every Thursday at 5 pm until February 18. It’s basically a series documenting the upcoming death of civilization on Planet Earth. Today: The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, with lessons we will need to learn to survive the next couple of decades. Next Thursday: Blind Spot, about the crossroads we are at which offers two paths, both with dire consequences.
The Oscar nominations for Academy Awards were announced on Tuesday, February 2, at 8:38 pm Thai time, and not surprisingly, to me at least, Avatar leads the nominations, in a tie with The Hurt Locker at nine nominations each. Best director nominees include James Cameron for Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow (who, by the bye, happens to be James Cameron’s ex-wife) for The Hurt Locker; best actor nominees include George Clooney (Up in the Air) and Jeff Bridges(Crazy Heart); and best actress nominees include Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia). Watch this space for news of an Oscar-watching party on the evening of March 8 at the RatiLanna Riverside Spa Resort, for the benefit of a good cause.
The ten films nominated for Best Picture
Avatar – already a hit in Chiang Mai. See it! Nominated for original score, editing, cinematography, art direction, sound mixing, sound editing, and visual effects. The nominations for Avatar are heavily concentrated in the more technical categories. It did not receive a screenplay nomination. Also nominated for best director (James Cameron).
The Blind Side – not yet scheduled for Chiang Mai. A surprise as a best picture nomination, but a popular drama about a white woman who helps a homeless young black man become a football star. Also up for actress (Sandra Bullock).
District 9 – played here in September. Alien refugees, the last survivors of their home world, held in a detention camp in South Africa. Also up for editing, visual effects. Very likely this edged aside Star Trek, a more conventional sci-fi hit that had been singled out by many as an Oscar prospect earlier in the season.
An Education – not yet scheduled for Chiang Mai. A teen (Carey Mulligan) is courted by an older suitor (Peter Sarsgaard) who gives her a taste of sophisticated, adult life. A lyrical, refreshingly clear-eyed account of a young woman's coming of age. Also nominated for adapted screenplay and actress (Carey Mulligan).
The Hurt Locker – scheduled for February 25. An elite Army bomb squad in Iraq must come together in a place where everyone might be an enemy. Also actor (Jeremy Renner), original screenplay, original score, editing, cinematography, sound mixing, sound editing, and director (Kathryn Bigelow).
Inglourious Basterds – played here in August. The anti-Nazi romp and revenge fantasy. Also up for supporting actor (Christoph Waltz, picture right), original screenplay, editing, cinematography, sound mixing, sound editing, and director (Quentin Tarantino).
Precious – not yet scheduled for Chiang Mai. A harsh drama about the abuse and triumph of an overweight ghetto girl that has been only a modest draw at the box office thus far. Best actress (Gabourey Sidibe), best supporting actress (Mo’Nique). Also up for adapted screenplay, editing, and director (Lee Daniels) who made instant Oscar history as the first black director of a best picture nominee.
A Serious Man – not yet scheduled for Chiang Mai, but is scheduled for Bangkok March 4 at APEX Siam-Square and SF World Cinema. The Coen brothers directed this 1960s-set comedy about a physics professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) who seeks guidance from three rabbis when his life begins to fall apart. A sort of shaggy-dog parable, not quite comedy, but not quite drama. Also nominated for original screenplay.
Up – played here in June. The delightful and moving animated film about Ed Asner’s trip to South America in his airborne house. Also nominated for best animated film which may split the vote and mean that it gets neither. Also up for best original screenplay, original script, original score, and sound editing.
Up in the Air – scheduled for February 25. George Clooney flies around the US firing people that their bosses are too timid to do themselves. Clooney also up for best actor. Two supporting actresses: Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Film also up for adapted screenplay, director (Jason Reitman).
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* My Valentine / Laew Rak Kor Mun Rob Tua Rao / แล้วรัก...ก็หมุนรอบตัวเรา: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 90 mins – A girl who hates Valentine's Day meets three young men, each determined to make her his Valentine. The usual Thai rom/com, which one might say is a mixture of cute young Thais and older TV comedians.
Wise Kwai: By the same trio of directors who collaborated on last year's Before Valentine -- Songsak Mongkolthong (The Screen at Kamchanod), Pornchai "Mr. Pink" Hongrattanaporn (Bangkok Loco), and Seree Phongnithi (Ghost-in-Law, Art of the Devil).It stars Mintita "Mint AF3" Wattanakul who's in a quandary about deciding which of three guys is perfect for her -- a fortysomething rich guy Mic (Wasu Sangsingkaew), a bad boy (Krit Sriphoomset), or a childhood friend (Suwikrom Amaranan).
It appears the singer-actress from the third season of the reality talent series Academy Fantasia has some comedy chops. … Though the story is not at all related to Before Valentine, My Valentine looks to have much of the same style and production design, with Mr. Pink's inventively funny visual tricks very much in evidence.
* From Paris with Love: US/ UK/ New Zealand, Crime/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – 135 mins – Starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. A low-ranking intelligence operative working in the office of the U.S. Ambassador in France takes on more than he bargained for when he partners with a wisecracking, fast-shooting, high-ranking U.S. agent who's been sent to Paris to stop a terrorist attack. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence throughout, drug content, pervasive language, and brief sexuality. Mixed or average reviews: 58/45 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: A personal aide to the U.S. Ambassador in France, James Reese (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has an enviable life in Paris and a beautiful French girlfriend, but his real passion is his side job as a low-level operative for the CIA. All James wants is to become a bona fide agent and see some real action. So when he's offered his first senior-level assignment, he can't believe his good luck - until he meets his new partner, special agent Charlie Wax (John Travolta).
A trigger-happy, wisecracking, loose cannon who's been sent to Paris to stop a terrorist attack, Wax leads James on a white-knuckle shooting spree through the Parisian underworld that has James praying for his desk job. But when James discovers he's a target of the same crime ring they're trying to bust, he realizes there's no turning back...and that Wax himself might be his only hope for making it through the next forty-eight hours alive.
Dark Horizons: Cinematographer turned film director Pierre Morel is proving a name to watch after the strong success of his first two helming efforts - the 2004 French parkour action flick District 13 (aka. District B13) and the 2008 Liam Neeson revenge thriller Taken, both of which he filmed with writer/producer Luc Besson.
Their third time together with Morel in the big chair looks like similar explosive fun with John Travolta doing a more comedic and unhinged take on his Pelham 123 routine with The Tudors star Jonathan Rhys Meyers starring opposite as the jittery pen-pushing straight man.
Like Besson's Transporter film series, the rather pedestrian sounding plot here plays third fiddle to a mix of martial arts, elaborate gun fights, impressive car chases, and brutal takedowns of numerous bodyguards and bad guys.
The September Issue: US, Documentary – 90 mins – I found this a very entertaining documentary. It chronicles Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's preparations for the 2007 fall-fashion issue. That issue of Vogue weighed nearly five pounds, and was the single largest issue of a magazine ever published. With unprecedented access, The September Issue, directed and produced by R.J. Cutler, tells the story of the legendary Vogue editor and her larger-than-life team creating the issue and ruling the world of fashion. Generally favorable reviews: 69/70 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Anna Wintour, the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine for twenty years, is the most powerful and polarizing figure in fashion. Hidden behind her trademark bob and sunglasses, she has never allowed anyone to scrutinize the inner workings of her magazine. Until now. With unprecedented access, filmmaker R.J. Cutler’s new film The September Issue does for fashion what he did for politics in The War Room, taking the viewer inside a world they only think they know.
Every August a record-breaking number of people can’t wait to get their hands on the September issue of Vogue. The 2007 issue was and remains the biggest ever, weighing over four pounds, selling thirteen million copies, and impacting the $300-billion global fashion industry more than any other single publication. An intimate, funny and surprising look at Anna Wintour and her team of larger-than-life editors as they create this must-have Bible of fashion, Cutler explores the untouchable glamour of Wintour’s Vogue to reveal the extraordinarily passionate people at its heart. He takes us behind the scenes at Fashion Week, to Europe, on shoots and reshoots, and into closed-door staff meetings, bearing witness to an arduous, entertaining, and sometimes emotionally demanding process.
Rolling Stone: R.J. Cutler has crafted a subversively entertaining documentary detailing the blood, sweat and tears Vogue editor Anna Wintour exacted from her staff to produce the mammoth 2007 issue of the fashion Bible. It’s all pre-economic collapse, meaning we get to watch the fashionably rich enjoy their privileges while everyone else, well, let them eat cake.
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. China seems to be having second thoughts about showing the film, as the last thing it wants is to have its people encouraged by the film to resist the forced evictions which are common in China. Feminists are upset because the female Na’vi are not as muscular as the male. Organized religion is fearful that the beautifully portrayed mystical animism of the Na’vi might threaten their members’ beliefs. Repressive governments are not happy about the rallying effect the film has for oppressed people to band together to fight oppression. All this speaks to the power of the film to deeply affect those who view it. Director James Cameron has produced a major achievement as well asatechnological 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.
2D version: In English and Na'vi dialogue, with English and Thai subtitles as needed for both languages. At Airport Plaza only, and two 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| 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|.
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: 66/64out 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.
Tai Hong / Die a Violent Death / ตายโหง: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – 90 mins – This omnibus film consists of 4 short shocking stories of death and horror, directed by Poj Arnon (Bangkok Love Story, and all those transvestite horror-comedies).
Wise Kwai: Producer-director Poj Arnon gets in on the horror omnibus trend with Die a Violent Death (Tai Hong, ตายโหง), which weaves together four stories that are ripped from today's headlines of the Thai mass-circulation dailies -- the newspapers that generally have bleeding corpses on the front page.
Joining Poj are three indie directors. The stories involve a dead body in an apartment building's water tank, directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit; a ghost in prison, directed by Manus Worrasingha; a New Year's Eve pub fire (mirroring last year's deadly blaze at Bangkok's Santika pub), directed by Chartchai Ketknust; and a ghost in a motel by Poj.
The Spy Next Door: US, Action/ Comedy/Family – 92 mins –With Jackie Chan. A former CIA spy looks after his girlfriend's three kids, and one of them accidentally downloads a top-secret formula, leading to a run-in with a Russian terrorist. Jackie Chan fans may be running to see this but people in the real world think it’s a sad little movie entirely designed to set up Chan’s stunt sequences as he fights with pots, pans, and ladders. Reviewers say it’s flat and witless – one of Chan's worst ever, a juvenile, generic, sitcommy mess that utterly fails to thrill or amuse. But, what do they know? Generally unfavorable reviews: 27/30 out of 100.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, February 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.
Dark Horizons, Garth Franklin: Delays of well over a year, crew changes galore during production, reshoots, dodgy visual effects, and a tone that was still undecided throughout post-production – whatever the eventual result on screen, nothing can compare to the behind-the-scenes problems with Universal's $85 million remake of the classic 1941 Lon Chaney monster movie.
Early on everything seemed to go fine. Benicio Del Toro signed on right from the start while One Hour Photo helmer Mark Romanek became attached in early 2007 and spent nearly a year with the project, developing it for a planned shoot in late 2007. Then the delays started. Romanek dropped out due to 'creative differences' with several names from Frank Darabont and Bill Condon to Brett Ratner and Martin Campbell expressing interest before Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo) finally came onboard. David Self was hired to re-write Andrew Kevin Walker's script
Filming got underway in the second-quarter of 2008 in the UK and according to reports things actually went well. Makeup guru Rick Baker helped create the wolf designs with Del Toro who endured three hours of make-up daily for his scenes as the beast. Baker however was vocally upset that the transformation scenes from man-to-beast would be entirely computer animated and thus wouldn't be as realistic had some practical elements been involved as well.
A presentation at Comic Con in 2008 showed some impressive old school style horror footage which sadly didn't go over as well as the studio hoped with the crowd and other web critics I talked to. Release date delays ensued with the film pushed back to late 2009. It was May last year however that things changed again as Dark Horizons first broke word from legendary stunt director Vic Armstrong that reshoots were underway in the UK which were to incorporate more computer-animated wolf action into the film.
How extensive those reshoots were to this day remain a mystery as the official and unofficial reports notably differ. The film was delayed again to February 2010. A first trailer came out to modest reaction, causing a second more rock-heavy preview to quickly get pushed out and scored a better response. Mark Goldblatt and Walter Murch were hired to re-edit the film after the original cut didn't go well, talk stirred up of two alternate cuts (a PG-13 and an R) which the studio denied. Composer Danny Elfman left the film, replaced by Tangerine Dream's Paul Haslinger.
Even now with a month to go, no one seems quite sure what the end product will be. Universal has proudly publicized the film's R-rating for violence and gore, something that seems like pandering to the torture-porn crowd considering the Universal Monsters were always much more about atmosphere than splatter. The casting is fine, Weaving in particular looks pitch perfect with his mutton chops, but every day this sounds more and more like a 'what could've been' project. What initially set out to be a rich, classy throwback to a once great genre may have become a cheap, CG effects-heavy, gory bit of nonsense. I truly hope I'm wrong and what's there will surprise everyone.
Canada/ US, Fantasy/ Comedy – Studio synopsis: “It's the 21st century, but the gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters have walked out of the pages of high school student Percy Jackson's Greek mythology texts and into his life. And they're not happy: Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Even more troubling is the sudden disappearance of Percy's mother. As Percy finds himself caught between angry and battling gods, he and his friends embark on a cross-country adventure to catch the true lightning thief, save Percy's mom, and unravel a mystery more powerful than the gods themselves.” Wow!
Cast: Logan Lerman, Catherine Keener, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman. Director: Chris Columbus.
To right, Logan Lerman as Percy
Dark Horizons, Garth Franklin: Poseidon's son, a 12-year-old boy, sets out on a quest in present-day America to rescue his mother, return Zeus' stolen lightning bolt and prevent a civil war from erupting among the gods. Based on Rick Riordan's best-selling children's novel.
Hitting a little over a month before the more adult-oriented Clash of Titans rocks into cinemas featuring many of the same Greek deities as characters, Percy on the surface looks less like a rival and more like a cash-in. Pretty much every teen fantasy book series has sold its film rights in recent years with studios desperately wanting to push out a moneymaker of Harry Potter or Twilight size.
The fact of the matter is though that the genre has produced more flops than successes. The first Narnia was a huge money spinner but the second certainly wasn't. The watered down film adaptation of The Golden Compass basically bankrupted a mini-major, while movies like Lemony Snicket, Eragon, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, City of Ember, Inkheart, and The Spiderwick Chronicles all hoped to become franchises and all disappointed at the box-office.
While Fox 2000's take on the best of the Narnia novels, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, opens a few months later - Percy marks their first film out of the gate this year. Early trailers looked very underwhelming, but the more recent previews promise some interesting FX spectacle and at the very least an all-star line-up of talent as the Greek Gods. …
Chris Columbus in the director's chair could go either way, certainly it promises a family-safe adventure that doesn't really take much in the way of chances. A script by Craig Titley (See Spot Run, Cheaper by the Dozen) also means that this will likely be quite bland. The one who might come out the best from all this is teen star Logan Lerman (Jack & Bobby, Gamer) who doesn't look half bad as a teen movie lead.
Valentine’s Day: US, Comedy/ Romance – Intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine's Day. 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
Dark Horizons, Garth Franklin: After the success of the generally panned He's Just Not That Into You in February this year for New Line, the former studio turned Warner label realized it had found a hell of a niche and so raced into production on Day in the hopes of having it out in time for the titular holiday weekend.
While not a direct sequel as such, it may as well be as the formula is almost a carbon copy, just with some extra padding this time around. You scribes Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn penned the film's story which Army Wives creator Katherine Fugate polished. You director Ken Kwapis (License to Wed, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) has been upgraded to Garry Marshall (The Princess Diaries, Runaway Bride).
The ensemble is even more star powered than before with almost every major Hollywood female talent (and quite a few famous male ones too) who didn't appear in You turning up here, alongside man of the moment Bradley Cooper who stars in both films - albeit this time playing a gay man who gets it on with McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy. The story revolves around the romantic holiday but otherwise is pretty much the same standalone subplots that occasionally cross over formula, which means some will prove decent while others will simply drag.
These kinds of films adore reinforcing the idea that all couples are flawlessly happy and all singles are desperately lonely train wrecks, something made all the more unbelievable here as Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba are portrayed as desperate loners. As this is a film targeted entirely at women it sends a message almost every bit as bad as the Twilight films that they are nothing without a man. Nevertheless the formula works for the Carrie Bradshaw-wannabes of this world.
Confucius / Kong Zi: China, Biography/ Drama – 90 mins – Set in 6th Century BC, this is the life story of the highly-influential Chinese thinker and philosopher, from his days as a court official through battles and political intrigues, to his old age as a disillusioned sage. With Chow Yun-Fat, directed by Mei Hu.
Dark Horizons, Garth Franklin: With only a few weeks to go before its official release in China, this $23 million biopic about one of the world's most famous philosophers has drawn quite a bit of controversy over its accuracy. Much like the way many Hollywood films tend to gloss up the romantic and action-related angles of famed historical figures, so too has this film undergone criticism for casting an action hero (Yun-Fat) as the man himself and portraying him as romantically attracted to a concubine.
Outside Asia where his back-story is less known, Mei Hu's filmmaking itself will likely get a more objective consideration. The trailers, generally a mishmash of scenes without any real context or order, have sparked both interest and confusion with the disappointing visual effects and overuse of battle scenes scoring criticism. As the Chinese government was heavily involved in the project, don't expect much in the way of a truly independent look at the revered thinker.
And looking forward:
Feb 18, 2010 – Shutter Island: US, Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 148 mins – Director Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo,andMax von Sydow in this horror fantasy. Previews look really good to me. “It's 1954, and an up-and-coming U.S. marshal is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital. He's been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn't been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. The marshal’s shrewd investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals "escape" in the confusion, and the puzzling, improbable clues multiply, He begins to doubt everything - his memory, his partner, even his own sanity.”