Dog-days come to Chiang Mai!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, March 25, 2010
… through Wednesday, March 24
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Up in the Air. Alice in Wonderland. Green Zone. How To Train Your Dragon. Hachi (if you at all love dogs!)
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 ongoing 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 the cinema websites, or by phone. Or by going to the cinemas and looking.
Richard Gere and the young Hachi
This is Issue Number 21 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Hachi: A Dog's Tale / Hachiko: A Dog's Story: US/ UK, Drama/ Family – 93 mins – This family drama reunites actor Richard Gere and director Lasse Halström (What's Eating Gilbert Grape). Born out of real-life events, it tells the tale of Hachi, a faithful Akita dog who would walk his owner to and from the train station every day. But when the man unexpectedly dies, Hachi continues his daily routine of waiting for his master at the train station for the next nine years, becoming a fixture in the community. Mixed or average reviews: 56 out of 100. But if you’re a dog lover, you will go wild over it, I guarantee!
This is a remake of the 1987 Japanese film Hachiko Monogatari, transferred to Rhode Island. The original film of the Akita dog, which in the 1920s and 1930s waited for his master at Shibuya station for nearly a decade after his death, starred Tatsuya Nakadai, and earned more than 4 billion yen at theaters across Japan.
Hachiko Statue in Shibuya is a famous statue of a dog that possessed legendary loyalty to his owner. Hachiko belonged to Professor Ueno Saburo; Hachi always went to see the master off and wait for his return at the Shibuya station everyday even in terrible weather. After the Professor's death in 1925 Hachi continued to wait at the station for his master's return.
Hachiko was given away after his master's death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again at his old home. Eventually, Hachiko apparently realized that Professor Ueno no longer lived at the house. So he went to look for his master at the train station where he had accompanied him so many times before. Each day, Hachiko waited for Professor Ueno to return. And each day he did not see his friend among the commuters at the station. The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachiko attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachiko and Professor Ueno together each day. They brought Hachiko treats and food to nourish him during his wait. This continued for 10 years, with Hachiko appearing only in the evening time, precisely when the train was due at the station. In April 1934, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya Station and Hachiko himself was present at its unveiling.Hachiko died on March 8, 1935. He was found on a street in Shibuya. – Virtualtourist
Actor Richard was touched by the story of Hachiko and for some time has been pushing for an American movie adaptation of the story, eventually even going on to co-produce the film with his own money.
Here’s a little secret: In the film, Hachi as a puppy is played by a Shiba puppy. Apparently, Shibas were used for the puppy scenes because they were considerably easier to train. And maybe cuter. Three Akitas play the adult Hachiko.
The original story of Hachiko is not completely without controversy. There are some who claim that the story was deliberately popularized in fascist pre-war Japan as a means of inculcating loyalty to the emperor and to the state–the idea being that Hachiko’s utter faithfulness up to the bitter end was a model that the government wanted the people to follow in supporting the state. Of course, Gere’s film does not come close to this. One would hardly expect Gere, a strong Tibet supporter, to allow the story to be about loyalty to oppressive governments.
When Helen Keller visited Japan in the 1930’s, she was so inspired by the story of Hachiko that she got an Akita-breed dog for herself.
In April 1934, a bronze statue the likeness of Hachiko was erected at Shibuya, and Hachiko himself was present at its unveiling. The statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II. In 1948 The Society for Recreating the Hachiko Statue commissioned Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist who had since died, to make a second statue. The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is an extremely popular meeting spot.
A similar statue stands in Hachiko’s hometown, in front of Ōdate Station. In 2004, a new statue of Hachiko was erected on the original stone pedestal from Shibuya in front of the Akita Dog Museum in Odate.
It rather amused me that at the end of the film there is a sort of warning for people who might find the film an inducement to get their own Akita, that cautioned us that Akitas can be difficult dogs:
“Although beloved by many as a family pet, Akitas are recommended only for dedicated and experienced dog owners.”
It seems they’re more independent than dogs should be. In fact, they’re more like cats in that regard. Everything has to be on their terms. And insurance companies list them as “high risk for biting and aggression.” Akitas are actually one of the most primitive dogs on the planet, and are still very closely linked to the wolf.
* How To Train Your Dragon: US, Animation – 98 minds – From Dreamworks, the studio that brought you Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda. Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, this animated action comedy tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view. Generally favorable reviews: 71/76 out of 100. Shown in 3D at Major Cineplex, Airport Plaza; Vista is showing a 2D Thai-dubbed version.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Kid stuff? Maybe. But How to Train Your Dragon, from the book by Cressida Cowell, works enough miracles of 3-D animation to charm your socks off.
Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine: Dreamworks may have topped itself with How to Train Your Dragon, an exciting, fun, and sensationally entertaining movie for everyone, a thrilling action adventure fantasy that should slay the competition and grab great word of mouth.
* Bang Rajan 2: Thai, Action/ War – 135 mins – The sequel to Bang Rajan, it continues the patriotic legend of a tiny farming village that fought Burmese invaders despite insurmountable odds and successfully held off a foreign invasion until the capital at Ayutthaya could put up a proper defense. It looks as though this episode will be as ferociously violent and bloody as the original, with even more buffaloes and mustaches.
Nak Prok / Shadow of the Naga /นาคปรก: Thai, Action/ Drama – 105 mins – A long-shelved monks-with-guns crime drama, it's the story of three thieves who bury their loot on the grounds of a Buddhist monastery, and when they come back later to dig it up, they find a temple has been built on the spot. So they ordain as Buddhist monks while they figure out how to get their treasure.The film actually premiered in 2008 in Toronto, but its strong depictions of the thieves robed as Buddhist monks have kept it out of Thai theaters until now, when the new rating system allows more controversial scenes and images, if properly rated. 18+ in Thailand.
Buddhist groups calls on govt to ban Nak Prok movie:Two Buddhist organizations Wednesday called on the government to ban the Nak Prok movie for fear that it would damage image of Buddhism. Adisak Wannasin, president of the Buddhism Relations Association, said his association and the Network of Buddhist Organizations want the Nak Prok movie to be banned.
It is a movie about three robbers who disguise as Buddhist monks to try to get the money they hid inside a temple compound but a temple hall was later built on the ground they buried the money.Adisak said the movie was sensitive and could damage Buddhism's image.
-- The Nation
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. At Airport Plaza only.
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.
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.
Green Zone: France/ US/ Spain/ UK, Action/ Drama/ Thriller/ War – 115 mins – Courageous director Paul Greengrass takes on the whole Bush Administration (and the Blair administration too I guess) as he reminds us all, very forcefully, that there never were "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq and the governments knew it, and the whole fiction was created as an excuse to go to war so Bush could finish the war that he thought his father had not finished in a satisfactory American way. The repercussions of that tragic decision will last for a hundred years. Starring Matt Damon as a US Army officer who hunts for the elusive WMD and finds only an elaborate cover-up. Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson. Rated R in the US for violence and language. Generally favorable reviews: 61/60 out of 100.
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. ...
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.
Alice in Wonderland (2D):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 – it all adds up to an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind movie experience. Mixed or average reviews: 53/57 out of 100. Note: not in 3D this week; it moved out of the 3D cinema to make room for How to Train Your Dragon.
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.