The gods are at it again!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, April 1, 2010
… through Wednesday, April 7
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Alice in Wonderland. How to Train Your Dragon.
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 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.
This is Issue Number 22 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Clash of the Titans (3D & 2D): UK/ US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Fantasy– 118 mins – The mortal son of the god Zeus embarks on a perilous journey to stop the underworld and its minions from spreading their evil to Earth as well as the heavens. Starring Sam Worthington (the hero of Avatar) as Perseus, Liam Neeson as Zeus, and Ralph Fiennes as Hades. A remake of a 1981 Ray Harryhausen adventure starring Laurence Olivier, and likely to be the first chapter in a trilogy based on Greek mythology. It is one of an increasing number of films being distributed in 3D – but as a result of the sort of fake 2D to 3D conversion process, and not originally shot in 3D. (Looks like they’ll be doing the same for the final two Harry Potter films.) Early reviews: mixed or average: 47/38 out of 100.
Variety, Brian Lowry: Even more haphazardly plotted than the original, Clash of the Titans boasts 3D imagery and kinetic action that can't obscure a movie that is, finally, pretty flat.
Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt: A fun digital ride through Greek mythology as humans clash with gods and monsters.
The major drawback, especially now, when 3D is all the rage, is its feeble effort in that department. Added as an afterthought in postproduction, the 3D barely registers. Few moviegoers will think it's worth the extra bucks.
It's a pity the idea didn't occur in preproduction, as the opportunities for real 3D excitement exist in virtually every frame. The film's mythological world has rugged scenery -- shot in Tenerife (a resort island off the coast of Africa), Wales, and Ethiopia -- and otherworldly battles between men and beasts that fill the screen with a mosaic of unbridled action.
Perseus' dilemma, unknown to him until the action begins, is that he is the mortal son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), king of the gods. Raised by humans, he insists he belongs with them, but he will need godlike powers to rescue humanity in a dual clash between gods and men and between Zeus and his vengeful brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), god of the underworld.
... The digital creations are marvels, and French-born director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) pulls all the visual elements together in creating a dark though credible mythological world.
The original Clash of the Titans (1981) was a last hurrah for Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion king of such 1950s, '60s and '70s movie extravaganzas as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C. Sadly, his preeminence in stop-motion animation and creation of wondrous monsters was by then eclipsed by filmmakers who had fallen under his thrall as youngsters, most notably George Lucas, whose Star Wars films made Harryhausen's special effects and grainy matte plates look outdated.
To right, Ray Harryhausen with two of his stop-motion creatures
* Saranae Sib Lor / สาระแนสิบล้อ: Thai, Adventure/ Comedy – 90 mins – With Mario Maurer of Love of Siam fame.
Wise Kwai: Set for release on April 1 -- no joke -- is Saranae Siblor, the sophomore feature-film effort by the team from the Saranae TV series.
This time out, instead of adapting the reality-TV prank skits to the big screen as they did in last year's Saranae Hao Peng, the comedy team of "Ple" Nakorn Silachai, "Sena Hoi" Kiattisak Udomnak and Ruengrit "Willy" McIntosh, have crafted a fictional road-trip comedy adventure.
Along for the ride is Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer. He plays a young man whose father suspects he's gay. He's sent packing on a road trip to learn how to become a man.
He gets a ride from the Che Guevara-styled driver (Ple) of an old 10-wheel truck (the siplor of the title). Sena Hoi and Kotee Aramboy (sufficiently recovered from being pranked in last year's movie) are Tweedledum-and-Tweedledee slapstick goofballs. Along the way they meet a prosthetic-legged woman who's trapped in a brothel ("Chompoo" Araya A. Hartgett) and are chased by her pimp (Willy). Patheera Sarutipongpokim also stars.
I don't know what more there is to it than that. It seems like the perfect April Fool's joke for Thai moviegoers.
Left: Mario? Gay?
How to Train Your Dragon: US, Animation – 98 mins – This is a most enjoyable animated film, from Dreamworks, the studio that brought us 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 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.
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, but I’ve seen the 2D version, and to me the colors are much brighter than in the 3D version, and overall is just as enjoyable.
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. Airport Plaza only.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, April 8, 2010
The Princess and the Frog:US, Animation/ Family/ Fantasy/ Musical/ Romance – A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans and centered on a young girl named Tiana and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again. Nominated for 3 Oscars. I think Walt Disney has much to atone for in its presentation of blacks over the years, and this has pretty much done the trick. After a few squeamish moments at the start, the old Disney magic takes over, and you’re treated to classic 2D animation in the venerable Disney style, done to perfection. In my opinion, a brilliant animated film in the tradition of the great Disney fairy-tale films. Generally favorable reviews: 73/73 out of 100.
At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon." A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 2, 8 pm: L'armée des ombres / Army of Shadows (1969) written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville – 150 mins – France/ Italy, Drama/ War. English subtitles.
With Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani.
In 1942 during World War II, a few men and women risked their lives to liberate France. The “Shadows Army” is an evocation of an important period of the “Resistance” such as J.P. Melville experienced himself.
– Alliance description
Well-known for his influential crime films (Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge), director Jean-Pierre Melville explores the lives of French Resistance fighters in his moody World War II masterpiece, Army of Shadows. Restrained and controlled, the film follows Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) and other members of the underground as they carry out clandestine missions against Nazi occupiers. And while there are some exciting scenes (air drops, escape attempts), the film largely avoids action-film histrionics. Its tone is a subdued one and tension results from its quiet moments, interrupted by brief, jarring violence. This is appropriate, given the film's subject matter. Silence is the guiding principle of espionage and the film's look--bruised and penumbral--reflects the tenuous position of its characters, who live divided, imperiled existences. There is no glib heroism in Army of Shadows; there are only people living through untenable situations, acting as is necessary and sacrificing, perhaps, everything.
filmsdefrance.com, James Travers: In this film, director Jean-Pierre Melville draws on his own war-time experiences to paint a vivid and realistic picture of life in the French Resistance during the Second World War. The film has more of the feel of a documentary than a traditional action movie. As a result, the central characters have great depth and their heroism lies not in fool-hardy acts of bravado but in their dogged determination (a) to oppose the Nazi occupiers and (b) just simply to survive.
Melville’s style fits the film well. Better known for his gangster films, the same sense of a clandestine underworld is entirely appropriate for depicting the activities of the French Resistance. However, unlike in Melville’s other films, there is no sense of moral ambiguity. The Nazis are clearly the villains of the piece; the Resistance are the heroes. Even when the Resistance members are having to dispose of their own kind, they are shown in a positive light, clearly tormented by the action they have to take.
The central characters are well drawn and would stand up well, even if they were not portrayed by some of France’s great acting talents. Lino Ventura dominates the film as Gerbier, with a performance that is alternately severe and warm, reflecting possibly a character who is naturally warm but who has become cold and severe through his Resistance work. With the incomparable Simone Signoret and Paul Merisse also prominent in his line-up, Melville reinforces a winning hand, and is amply rewarded. This is a film about individuals, about their personal quandaries and agonies during a period of crises. With such a strong cast, Melville could hardly have failed.
By avoiding spectacle and concentrating on small, individual acts of heroism, Melville’s portrayal of life in the French Resistance is perhaps one of the most accurate depicted in film to date. Melville’s attention to detail is often quite staggering – whether it be in the emotional responses of characters to their predicament, or in the faultless photography and set design. The whole film has a feeling of genuineness that is pretty rare in films of this genre, and the film is all the better for that.
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 9, 8 pm: Une vie / End of Desire (1958) written and directed by Alexandre Astruc – 86 mins – France/ Italy, Drama. English subtitles.
With Maria Shell, Christian Marquand, Antonella Lualdi, Pascale Petit.
«End of desire» is based on a novel by Guy De Mauppasant. Maria Schell plays Jeanne, who enters into a loveless marriage with impoverished Julien. Having married Jeanne only for her money, Julien has no qualms about carrying on an affair with Gilberte, the family maid. Even after Gilberte gives birth to Julien's child, Jeanne forgives her husband, but he fails to learn his lesson and as a result deeply suffers. The physical and psychological isolation of the long-suffering heroine is emphasized by director Alexandre Astruc's decision to film «End of desire» almost exclusively in a remote country mansion.
– Alliance description
filmsdefrance.com, James Travers: Maria Schell stars in this respectable adaptation of a great Guy de Maupassant novel. As in René Clément’s Gervaise (1956), she plays a young woman who is unlucky in love and driven by cruel fate to endure a life of pain and tragedy. The bleak Normandy setting, beautifully shot by Claude Renoir, conveys the barren futility of Jeanne’s hopeless love but also gives the film a cold feel that plays against its emotional potency. The characterless, slightly wooden performances from Christian Marquand and the supporting cast further weaken the film’s dramatic impact, almost to the point that Maria Schell resembles a star actress single-handedly trying to lift a faltering amateur stage production. For all its faults, Une vie is an alluring, well-crafted film with a strange appeal, suffused with a bleak Brontë-style poetry and surprisingly brutal in its depiction of an unrequited love.
Synopsis: In the late 19th century, Jeanne Dandieu lives with her parents in an isolated country house in Normandy. Her only companion is her childhood friend, Gilberte, who is now her servant. One fateful day, Jeanne drifts out to sea in a rowing boat. Soon after she is rescued by fisherman, she meets a young man, Julien, with whom she falls instantly in love. They marry, but it soon becomes apparent that Julien has no love for Jeanne. He insists on having a separate room where, unbeknown to Jeanne, he takes Gilberte as his mistress…
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
April is“The Month of Feel Out of Place” at Film Space.
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave at least 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, April 3, 7 pm: Into the Wild (2007) by Sean Penn – 148 mins – US, Adventure/ Biography/ Drama. Starring: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Catherine Keener. Freshly graduated from college and with a promising future ahead, 22-year-old Christopher McCandless chose instead to walk out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people. Was Christopher McCandless a heroic adventurer or a naïve idealist, a rebellious 1990s Thoreau or another lost American son, a fearless risk-taker, or a tragic figure who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature? Rated R in the US for language and some nudity. Generally favorable reviews: 73/73 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: With his sturdy cast and confident direction, Sean Penn has turned a complex work of non-fiction like Into the Wild into an accessible and poignant character study.
Jon Krakauer's bestselling nonfiction book about the life of Chris McCandless is finally brought to the big screen in Into the Wild. Directed by Sean Penn, the film opens in 1992, when Chris (Emile Hirsh) is a promising college graduate. Shortly after graduation, Chris gives his life savings to charity, burns all of his identification, and begins hitchhiking across America, his ultimate goal being Alaska. Citing passages from his heroes, Thoreau and Jack London, he is determined to escape society and get back to nature. He blows from town to town like a tumbleweed, hopping trains, camping with aging hippies (Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker), working briefly with a farmer (Vince Vaughan), and befriending a widowed leather worker (Hal Holbrook). He revels in his newfound freedom, but meanwhile, his parents (Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) have no idea where he is, and are sick with worry. While their relationship with Chris was already troubled, they are nonetheless devastated by his disappearance. Chris's sister, Carine (Jane Malone), narrates much of the film, offering her reflections on the effect Chris's absence has on his family. Chris finally makes it to Alaska, where he hikes out to a remote campsite and discovers an abandoned bus. He manages to survive there for a few months living off the land, but he eventually runs out of supplies and becomes trapped, leading to his tragic end. Into the Wild bounces around chronologically, jumping back and forth from the start of Chris's journey to his final few weeks living aboard the bus. This works to great effect as the storylines begin to merge and the tension and dread mount, and we see the fate that will eventually befall Chris. Penn obviously had great admiration for his subject, and while the film appears to differ from the book in places, it nevertheless paints a heartbreaking portrait of this young man's short but fascinating life.
At Film Space Saturday, April 10, 7 pm: The Wall (Pink Floyd) (1982) by Alan Parker – 95 mins – UK, Drama/ Music. The film tells the story of rock singer "Pink" who is sitting in his hotel room in Los Angeles, burnt out from the music business and only able to perform on stage with the help of drugs. Based on the 1979 double album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, the film begins in Pink's youth where he is crushed by the love of his mother. Several years later he is punished by the teachers in school because he is starting to write poems. Slowly he begins to build a wall around himself to be protected from the world outside. The film shows all this in massive and epic pictures until the very end where he tears down the wall and breaks free. A visually evocative cult film based upon the music and visions of Pink Floyd. Relationships, drug abuse, sex, childhood, WWII, and fascism combine in a disturbing mix of episodic live action and lyrical animation. Generally favorable reviews: 65 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Synopsis:Loosely based on the life story of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's original front man (who was kicked out of the band for his bizarre and disturbing behavior only to go insane shortly thereafter), PINK... Loosely based on the life story of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's original front man (who was kicked out of the band for his bizarre and disturbing behavior only to go insane shortly thereafter), Pink Floyd: The Wall stars Bob Geldof as Pink, a mentally damaged man who has gone from a hopeful child artist to a burned-out rock star drifting away from reality. As Pink festers in his hotel room, elements of his abusive childhood come back to haunt him until he begins to descend into absolute madness. Director Alan Parker's intense and fully realized film interpretation of the English band's classic album The Wall melds whimsical fantasy with dark Shakespearean drama. The film makes innovative use of sets, costumes, and special effects to create a unique surrealistic strangeness worthy of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's Un chien andalou. Both disturbing and bedazzling, Pink Floyd: The Wall is a must-see film for any music lover.