I told you Avatar would win! I was wrong!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, March 11, 2010
… through Wednesday, March 17
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Alice in Wonderland. The Book of Eli. Percy Jackson. Green Zone.
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.
Due to my continuing health problems, the movie times on this blog will not be updated for the time being. Times after the Thursday times listed here each Thursday you will have to getyourself, probably by going to the websites of the two cinemas in town by using the links found at the beginning of the schedules.
This is Issue Number 19 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Up in the Air note: Although the cineplexes may not be showing Up in the Air, Citylife Magazine is! Yes, in celebration of the Oscars season, as well as to raise funds to continue and expand on their carbon neutral initiative, Citylife, will hold an outdoors movie night in the garden at their offices next Wednesday, March 17th, from 6 pm. Actual viewing will start at 6.30 pm.They will provide chairs and a mat, but if you wish to bring your own cushions, deckchairs or anything else, that would be great. Tickets are 200 baht per person with one popcorn/soft drink combo as well as a chance to play fun games to win silly prizes. Onsite will be soft drinks, beers, wine, and snacks for sale. The evening will kick off with live music followed by a short film (fifteen minutes) produced by Chiang Mai University students. Go! – for a fun-filled evening of movies and entertainment. All for a great cause.
Tickets can be bought at Citylife office, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 053 225 201 to book tickets. Please email should you wish to come, so they can prepare for numbers, but tickets will be on sale at the door.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Green Zone: France/ US/ Spain/ UK, Action/ Drama/ Thriller/ War – 115 mins – Discovering covert and faulty intelligence causes a US Army officer to go rogue as he hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an unstable region. Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson. Director: Paul Greengrass. Rated R in the US for violence and language. Early reviews: Mixed or average: 53/54 out of 100.
Universal Pictures synopsis: Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) re-team for their latest electrifying thriller in Green Zone, a film set in the chaotic early days of the Iraqi War when no one could be trusted and every decision could detonate unforeseen consequences.
During the US-led occupation of Baghdad in 2003, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) and his team of Army inspectors were dispatched to find weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled in the Iraqi desert. Rocketing from one booby-trapped and treacherous site to the next, the men search for deadly chemical agents but stumble instead upon an elaborate cover-up that inverts the purpose of their mission.
Spun by operatives with intersecting agendas, Miller must hunt through covert and faulty intelligence hidden on foreign soil for answers that will either clear a rogue regime or escalate a war in an unstable region. And at this blistering time and in this combustible place, he will find the most elusive weapon of all is the truth.
Arizona Republic, Bill Goodykoontz: Sizes up the war in Iraq pretty nicely!
In ways it feels like a documentary about the invasion of Iraq, undertaken under the pretense of capturing weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, that Saddam Hussein was supposedly manufacturing there. But instead it's Green Zone, director Paul Greengrass' film about how things went so wrong in so many ways. Working from Brian Helgeland's script ("inspired by" Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City"), Greengrass uses his trademark handheld camera style (and that's a hand with a serious shake) to create what may be a new genre: the historical non-stop action drama.
Matt Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, whose unit is charged with finding WMD. When a third consecutive "confirmed" site turns up empty - it's a defunct toilet factory - he begins to realize that this isn't just coincidence. It's not simply a matter of frustration; men are fighting and dying trying to secure these sites, so that Miller's team can investigate. Greengrass, as expected, is expert at capturing the confusion amidst the violence of these fights, the handheld style fitting in with the general chaos.
Miller expresses his concern to his superiors, but they're not interested in hearing it. Finding WMD may be the ultimate public-relations win, a justification for war. The administration needs it, the American people want it and Miller and his team will find it, end of story.
As we know now, it's hard to find what isn't there.
That hardly matters to Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear, whose outstanding smirk is put to excellent use here), the administration envoy who insists that the intel must be trusted and that democracy most assuredly will take root in Iraq, whether anyone really wants it or not.
Poundstone also must contend with Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) - clearly modeled on former New York Times reporter Judith Miller - who has been writing all along that sources have confirmed the WMD; she, too, is anxious for proof, and frustrated that it hasn't arrived.
Miller, helped by a local man named Freddy (Khalid Abdalla, delightful), senses that he's uncovered the truth, but proving it will require beating other U.S. troops to an Iraqi general in an all-out, extended chase and action sequence that takes up a good bit of the last act. Miller is a good man, a decent sort who had no intention of striking out on his own against the wishes of his superiors. It's a situation forced upon him, in his view.
"I thought we were all on the same side," he complains early on to C.I.A. veteran Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), who sneers, "Don't be naïve" in reply.
In retrospect, Brown's words sound more like an epitaph than advice.
It's certainly interesting to see what's been reported on the manipulation of information played out as drama, and the acting is uniformly good. To pretend that the film doesn't make a political statement is silly. Of course it does. It wouldn't be effective at all if it didn't.
In fact, it's easy to begin to work up a good deal of righteous bile and anger watching Green Zone, as we are again reminded of what led us to war. But then a mortar whizzes by and the camera shakes and an explosion rocks the frame and off we go again, Miller on the run, chasing the truth at breakneck speed, and there's no longer time to think. Not for Miller, or for us.
* The Little Comedian / Ban Chan ... Talok Wai Gon (Por Son Wai) / บ้าน ฉัน...ตลก ไว้ ก่อน (พ่อ สอน ไว้):Thai, Family/Comedy –Directed by Witthaya Thongyooyong,one of the directors on the famed Fan Chan.The Little Comedian is about a family comedy troupe which harbors a black sheep – a son who isn't funny and is constantly upstaged by his filthy-mouthed younger sister. Comedian Jaturong Mokjok plays the father of the clan.
Alice in Wonderland (3D):US, Adventure/Family/ Fantasy–This is not your usual Alice, and it would be more truthful to call it something like Alice Returns to Wonderland, because it’s a new story, a riff on the original, with Alice all grown up as a late teens girl about to be proposed to. She returns to Wonderland to find the strange land even more frightening than before, in the hands of a cruel despot who is making life miserable for everybody. Alice is charged with ending the evil and bringing things back to what passes for normal in Wonderland. With Tim Burton, plus this particular Alice (Misa Wasikowska), plus Johnny Depp in another of his way-out-there tragicomic performances, plus 3D – it all adds up to an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind movie experience. Mixed or average reviews: 53/58 out of 100.
Orlando Sentinel, Roger Moore:Burton has imagined what at times is a literally eye-popping world of beasties, Scots accents, and gloom. “Logic and proportion” go out the window as Alice drinks this and shrinks, eats that and grows, and everyone and everything around her is stretched, bulbously blown up, or otherwise deformed in endlessly inventive ways. Whatever the virtues of Avatar, this is the most fanciful use of 3D ever to hit the big screen.
And Burton has cast it near perfectly. Anne Hathaway is a pale and dainty “Glenda the Good Witch” sort of White Queen. HUGE-headed Helena Bonham Carter is the eternally ill-tempered Red Queen, barking at her court of freaks and frogs and her playing-card soldiers in an Elizabethan temper.And Johnny Depp, as a madder-than-usual hatter in revolt against that tyrant, toys with a Highland accent.
Daybreakers: Australia/ US, Action/ Drama/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 98 mins – For me, a most excellent and exciting vampire film in the old school. In the year 2019, a plague has transformed most every human into a vampire. Faced with a dwindling blood supply, the dominant race plots their survival; meanwhile, a researcher works with a covert band of vampires on a way to save humankind. But be aware, it’s a true vampire film, and as such is very bloody indeed, with many gory deaths and a slew of decapitations, including close-ups of the severed heads seemingly on the verge of speaking a few final words. Starring Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, and brief nudity; 18+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews: 57/54 out of 100.
Arizona Republic, Bill Goodykoontz: Daybreakers isn't a great film, but it's a good one, and in a market oddly lousy with vampire tales, it's an original.
Rotten Tomatoes: Though it arrives during an unfortunate glut of vampire movies, Daybreakers offers enough dark sci-fi thrills -- and enough of a unique twist on the genre -- to satisfy filmgoers.
Reelviews, James Berardinelli: The premise is intriguing: What would happen if a mass vampire epidemic swept across the planet (sort of like the zombification of mankind in the George Romero movies) and humans - the major food source - became endangered? The best parts of Daybreakers relate to exploring the society that might emerge in such a situation, including the potential economic, political, technological, and military implications. The movie, written and directed by brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, doesn't just pay lip service to the background material. It is effectively interwoven into the story's tapestry, and may intrigue those who have grown weary of standard-order vampire movies. In addition to the back story, the movie raises questions about ideas as far ranging as what it means to be human and the morality of ethnic cleansing (an allegorical aspect). Daybreakers is primarily an adventure/thriller, and there are plenty of traditional elements, but more thought went into mapping out the scenario than one often uncovers in this sort of motion picture.
If ideas and back story represent Daybreakers' strengths, its action sequences are its Achilles' heel. Although not poorly executed, most exist in the gray zone between "obligatory" and "ordinary." It's as if they have been included simply because the filmmakers are concerned there might not be an audience for an overly talky, sedate vampire movie in which there isn't a female character named Bella running around. So we get stock situations like car chases, monster mayhem, and predictable betrayals.
On balance, however, there are more things to like about Daybreakers than to dislike. The production is loaded with impressive touches, some more nuanced than others.
Dear John: US, Drama/ Romance/ War – 105 mins – A romantic drama about a soldier who falls for a conservative college student while he's home on leave. Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas. Directed by Lasse Hallström (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, My Life As a Dog, The Cider House Rules, The Hoax). Mixed or average reviews: 43/43 out of 100.
Arizona Republic, Bill Goodykoontz: Awash in mawkish sentimentality, Dear John still will move you deeply - if you're a 12-year-old girl.
The New York Times, A.O. Scott: Dear John carefully distills selected elements of human experience and reduces them to a sweet and digestible syrup. It may not be strong medicine, but it delivers an effective, pleasing dose of pure sentiment and vicarious heartache.
Roger Ebert: Lasse Hallström'sDear John tells the heartbreaking story of two lovely young people who fail to find happiness together because they're trapped in an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Their romance leads to bittersweet loss that's so softened by the sweet characters that it feels like triumph. If a Sparks story ended in happiness, the characters might be disappointed.
New York Post,Lou Lumenick: Dear John is the sort of movie that gives tearjerkers a bad name.
The Book of Eli: US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Thriller/ Western – 118 mins – Not for everyone, but I found it thoroughly engrossing. The story revolves around a lone warrior (Denzel Washington) who must fight to bring society the knowledge that could be the key to survival. Gary Oldman is great as the despot of a small town who's determined to take possession of the book Eli's guarding. Directed by the twin Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen), who inject some fresh stylish fun into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I think Denzel is terrific! Rated R in the US for some brutal violence and language, 18+ in Thailand. 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.
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: 47/52 out of 100.
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.
Who Are You? / ใครในห้อง / ฮูอาร์ยู: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – 105 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”and is 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). At Vista only and in Thai only.
Kong Phan / Gong-pan / Korng Pan Kreuk Kreun, Tor Tahan Keuk Kak / กองพันครึกครื้นท.ทหารคึกคัก: Thai, Comedy – 115 mins – It’s been described as a “gays in the military romp.” Studio synopsis: ”Jiwon, a young lad, is enlisted to the army where he meets his new and unusual friends.” Picture to left.