Maybe complaining works! Up in the Air arrives!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, March 18, 2010
… through Wednesday, March 24
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Up in the Air. Julie & Julia. Alice in Wonderland. 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.
Note about this blog: Due to my continuing health problems, the movie times will not be updated for the time being. Times after the Thursday times listed here you will have to get from their websites or by phone. Or by going to the cinemas and looking.
This is Issue Number 20 of Volume 5 of these listings.
In my issue of February 25 I expressed my displeasure at Major Cineplex for promising, through posters and previews, to bring Up in the Air to Chiang Mai on that date, and then failing to do so. If you were interested, I asked you to write to them and complain. I heard from several people that they did just that. Maybe it worked! At any rate, here we have Up in the Air opening today. Not that it's a great picture by any means, but it was nominated for Best Picture, and George Clooney was up for Best Actor, and the two leading ladies were each up for the Best Actress award. So there is considerable interest in the picture. And I do think that there is hardly an actor alive with whom it's more pleasant to spend a couple of hours than George Clooney. [And if you get the chance, don't miss him in Fantastic Mr. Fox.]
Of course, if you went to the Citylife Magazine do last night, you've already seen it. They beat the cineplexes on this one.
And as an added bonus we have the feel-good movie of the year, the truly delightful Julie & Julia, also promised by Major Cineplex for an appearance a long time ago. But enough, go and enjoy these films. And courageous director Paul Greengrass takes on the whole Bush Administration (and the Blair administration too I guess) in Green Zone, which reminds us all, very forcefully, that there never were "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq and the government knew it, and the whole fiction was created as an excuse to go to war because the Iraqis tried to kill Bush's daddy. And of course for oil. And Alice is an imaginative riff on the classic tale, with marvelous performances.
Leaving aside the Thai comedy and the finally released Thai "Monks with Guns" movie, which I haven't seen, and the fairly pedestrian When in Rome, which I don't want to see, and it still adds up to a pretty good week for Chiang Mai moviegoers.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Julie & Julia: US, Biography/ Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 123 mins – An absolutely delightful and joyful film! See it! Meryl Streep gives a charismatic performance as Julia Child, and Amy Adams is Julie Powell in writer-director Nora Ephron’s adaptation of two bestselling memoirs: Powell’s Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme. “Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends...until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness, and butter, anything is possible.” Generally favorable reviews: 66/66 out of 100.
* Nak Prok / Shadow of the Naga / นาคปรก: Thai, Action/ Drama -- The story of a trio of thieves who bury their loot in a Buddhist temple then dress as monks in order to retrieve the stolen loot.
Wise Kwai: The Shadow of the Naga (Nak Prok, นาคปรก), the "monks with guns" drama that is finally seeing a release on March 18 after sitting on the studio's shelf for three years, will have two ratings -- 18+ with "pop up" warnings whenever the thieves-dressed-as-monks do something bad, and a straight-no-chaser 20+ with no "pop ups".
The 18+ rating is being done by Sahamongkol Film International in hopes of heading off criticism by conservative Buddhists about the movie's strong language and violent acts. News in Bangkok has a few thoughts about this move.
The plans for the alternate versions were detailed by The Nation in a story that details about everything you'd want to know about Nak Prok, which is about a trio of thieves who bury their loot in a Buddhist temple then dress as monks in order to retrieve the stolen money. Completed in 2007 and actually premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, it stars Ray MacDonald, Somchai Kemklad, Pitisak Yaowanon and Inthira Charoenpura.
Director Phawat Panangkasiri is candid when he explains the film's long delay in being released:
Phawat says Nak Prok was always intended as a film noir and that he has no regrets about refusing to bow to social sensitivities, even if it's meant such a long wait.
When movie mogul Somsak 'Sia Jiang' Techaratanaprasert saw the final cut three years ago, he ordered Phawat to re-edit and erase the gun from many scenes. "It looked so bizarre when the characters just point their hands at each other!" laughs Phawat.
"They decided to return to original version but with one condition. Somsak knew that the film would be banned under the old film law. So he asked me to wait for the new law, although back then we didn't know really know about the ratings and if and how they would help."
There might be protests anyway. Back in 2003, the action film Aguilimala, based on Buddhist scripture, came under heavy criticism from the Buddhist conservatives.
* Up in the Air: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 109 mins – Led by charismatic performances by its three leads, director/ writer Jason Reitman delivers a smart blend of humor and emotion with just enough edge to be nominated as best picture of the year, best directing, and the best adapted screenplay. George Clooney flies around the US firing people that their bosses are too timid to do themselves, was up for best actor, and Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick each nominated for best supporting actress. Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 83/81 out of 100.
Newsweek, David Ansen:There hasn't been a studio movie as unapologetically adult, sophisticated, and nuanced as Up in the Air in some time.
Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan:Up in the Air makes it look easy. Not just in its casual and apparently effortless excellence, but in its ability to blend entertainment and insight, comedy and poignancy, even drama and reality, things that are difficult by themselves but a whole lot harder in combination. This film does all that and never seems to break a sweat.
New York Magazine, David Edelstein:Up in the Air is poised to be a smash, and Clooney--slim, dark, perfectly tailored--glamorizes insincerity in a way that makes you want to go out and lie.
* When in Rome: US, Comedy/ Romance – 91 mins – Rom-com clichés, but a pair of young, attractive leads. Kristen Bell plays a young, ambitious New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love. However, on a whirlwind trip to Rome, she impulsively steals some coins from a reputed fountain of love, and is then aggressively pursued by a band of suitors. With Josh Duhamel. Generally unfavorable reviews: 25/33 out of 100.
Boxoffice Magazine, Pete Hammond: Entertaining, full of laughs, and, as far as chick flicks go, is a sweet, romantic trip worth taking for audiences so inclined.
ReelViews, James Berardinelli: It is neither deep nor intelligent, but it's not intended to be either. The saving grace of the otherwise generic product is that Bell's vivacity and Duhamel's rakish charm allow the viewer to root for them.
The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Rick Groen: In the case of When in Rome, oh to do what the Romans used to do: Toss the bloody thing to the lions.
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.
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: 53/57 out of 100.
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.