Sorry! No Prince this week!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, May 27, 2010
… through Wednesday, June 2
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Robin Hood. Shrek.
To avoid like the plague: Sin Sisters 2.
This newssheet is also online! Go to:
This is Issue Number 30 of Volume 5 of these listings.
An earlier version of this blog today said that Prince of Persia had arrived this week, considerably before it was scheduled. It was a mistake on the Major Cineplex website. The film is really more or less scheduled for June 10!
Good news! Major Cineplex has some price bargains at the moment: through Tuesday, June 1, all regular seats will cost only 80 baht, except for premium films. Plus the usual Wednesday offer of all regular seats at 60 baht, except for premium films.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Sin Sisters 2 / Poo Ying Ha Bap 2 / ผู้หญิง 5 บาป 2: (Postponed from last week) Thai, Erotic – 110 mins – Soft porn for Thai males. A bit of torture, a bit of bondage, and the usual violence. Awarded the quite restrictive 20+ rating in Thailand – only for those over 20. Story has something to do with five attractive girls who find themselves trapped in an unfamiliar place where a strange voice tells them that one of them must sacrifice her life in a diabolical ritual. And to survive, each of the other girls needs to describe all her sins and sexual experiences, in detail, to satisfy the devilish voice and presumably the males in the audience. The first Sin Sisters has been called one of the worst movies of all time. “This movie is even more sinful,” says director Sukit Narin. Major Cineplex only, with the 20+ rating.
Shrek Forever After - 3D: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy – 93 mins – The further adventures of the giant green ogre, Shrek, living in the land of Far, Far Away, this time in 3D (at Airport Plaza). Still a fun movie for the family – at least I was solidly amused. The story: Now domesticated and bored, Shrek makes a pact with deal-maker Rumpelstiltskin to get the real ogre feeling once again, but is duped and sent to a twisted version of Far, Far Away. With Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots, and the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, and Eddie Murphy. In 3D at Major Cineplex, 2D and Thai-dubbed only at Vista. Mixed or average reviews: 58/58 out of 100.
I have to say that with a high-price seat at 240 baht and a regular seat at 220 at Airport Plaza, and with no senior or student discount available, it’s not exactly a good value to my mind. However, I see moviegoers nonchalantly go on to pay out an additional 100-200 baht for drinks and snacks, so maybe price is of no concern.
Rotten Tomatoes: While not without its moments, Shrek Forever After too often feels like a rote rehashing of the franchise's earlier entries.
The New York Times Stephen Holden: What fortifies Shrek Forever After are its brilliantly realized principal characters, who nearly a decade after the first “Shrek” film remain as vital and engaging fusions of image, personality and voice as any characters in the history of animation.
Boxoffice Magazine, Pete Hammond: If Shrek Forever After truly is the final installment of the Shrek franchise, ... it's a great way to go out. Hilarious and heartfelt from start to finish, this is the best Shrek of them all, and that's no fairy tale. Borrowing liberally from Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life, this edition blends big laughs and emotion to explore what Far, Far Away might have been like if Shrek never existed. We might wonder the very same thing about Dreamworks Animation without this multi-billion dollar franchise that has spawned four movies, TV specials, a Broadway musical, and more merchandise than you can shake a Donkey's ass at. ...
The basic Capraesque plotline has been done to death but it seems surprisingly fresh here. The filmmakers milk the premise for all its worth and keep the laughs coming at such a pace it can be said Shrek is without question the funniest film of the year-at least so far. The beauty of this franchise is the wide swath of characters it is able to incorporate and the fractured twists it cleverly pulls on the old fairy tale formulas. Myers and Diaz continue to bring warmth and humanity to their vocal work as Shrek and Fiona, while Murphy and Banderas (reportedly getting his own Puss in Boots spinoff next year) are roll-in-the-aisles funny in all their scenes. Dreamworks head of story, Walt Dohrn, is the rare non-star to get a major speaking role in the franchise, but he brings such a frantic, convincing mania to Rumpelstiltskin that it's hard to imagine anyone topping this performance. Actors, even in minor roles like the 3 Little Pigs and Gingerbread Man, are also superb, bringing a unique vocal personality to every last resident of Far, Far Away and getting hearty laughs out of simple lines like "we ate the cake." The use of 3D is effective and enhances the sharp visual look of the whole enterprise.
If Shrek Forever After is to really be the ending for this terrific franchise, it's definitely a happy one.
Robin Hood: US/ UK, Action/ Drama – 140 mins – Ridley Scott's visit to Sherwood's most famous forest is something of an origin story, finding historical context in the legend by telling of Hood's days as an archer in the service of King Richard. Russell Crowe stars as the hero, returning to Sherwood Forest from the Crusades, reluctantly deciding that England needs some cleaning up. To that end, he teams with a motley bunch that will become the Merry Men, as well as the recently widowed Lady Marion (Cate Blanchet); swordplay and archery ensue. Mixed or average reviews: 53/54 out of 100.
Right: Ridley Scott directing Robin Hood
It does have impressive visuals and some great sweeping battle scenes, and strong performances, by Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchet, William Hurt, Max van Sydow, and Mark Strong among others. But it took me a long while to get interested in the main characters during the back-story, and the 1199 AD events of King Richard on his last crusade.
So much seemed to be happening in darkness in the middle of the night (okay, a little day-for-night is all right, but this went on and on until everything seemed but murk!). I defy anyone to figure out what was going on during the early part of the film, or more pertinently, why it should matter.
But after the story got going, it was okay. It’s loud, noisy, and confusing in the modern way of showing battles, where clarity is sacrificed for jittery, jumpy editing, and you are left with visual impressions, not information, and get visual rhythms rather than storytelling. If you like this sort of thing, well, you will like this, because it’s this sort of thing.
I’m struck again by what huge endeavors movies like this truly are. So many – probably thousands – of people were given employment, and that’s obviously a good thing. Not only actors, but costumers, armorers, artisans, set builders – actually in this case town and fortress builders. It’s a huge enterprise, and much of the craft involved is truly impressive: the details of the time and place. If I think it’s all ruined by the editing that’s so in fashion, well maybe it’s just because I’m from another era and somehow don’t like or even want to like the present day rapid-fire, video-game influence in movies. Call me old fashioned, not with it.
I didn’t have much fun.
New York Times, A.O. Scott: A spectacle very much in the Ridley Scott tradition (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and American Gangster). There are lots of swashes buckled, swords clanked and, just in case that doesn’t do the job, a shirtless and chiseled Mr. Crowe. With a romance between Big Hollywood Stars — Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett — and lavish medieval sets that were built, pillaged and burned down over the course of many months.
“Without realizing it we devised a story that is about the forming of Robin Hood, the beginning of the legend and how he came to be as opposed to what people already know,” said director Ridley Scott.
Iron Man 2: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 124 mins – Directed by Jon Favreau, starring Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Glwyneth Paltrow, and Mickey Rourke. It isn't quite the breath of fresh air that Iron Man was, but this sequel comes close with solid performances and an action-packed plot. I was particularly impressed with the work of Mickey Rourke. If you enjoy action movies, you should like this one; it has the requisite sound, fury, and flash. Mixed or average reviews: 57/59 out of 100. At Vista only, in an English and a Thai-dubbed version.
Ip Man 2 / Yip Man 2: Chung si chuen kei / ยิปมัน อาจารย์บรู๊ช ลี / 叶问: Hong Kong, Action/ Biography/ History – 108 mins – The second in a trilogy of semi-biographical martial arts films based on the life of Ip Man (1893-1972), a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun and the first person to teach Wing Chun openly. One of his students was Bruce Lee. The film focuses on events in Ip's life that took place in the city of Foshan during the Second Sino-Japanese War, as Ip Man grew up in a China torn by racial hatred, nationalistic strife, and warfare. This biopic from director Wilson Yip dramatizes Ip's life story. Thai-dubbed only, and only at Airport Plaza.
The Losers: US, Action/ Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller – 97 mins – An action tale of betrayal and revenge, in which the members of an elite Special Forces unit are sent to the Bolivian jungle on a search and destroy mission. But the team – Clay Jensen, Roque, Pooch and Cougar – soon find that they have become the target of a deadly double cross. After being betrayed and left for dead, members of the black ops team root out those who targeted them for assassination. Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, and directed by Sylvain White. Loud, fast, and unrelentingly violent – but it's also funny and well-acted, which will make all the difference for some action fans. Mixed or average reviews: 43/46 out of 100. At Vista only.
Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert: The movie gets the job done, and the actors show a lot of confidence in occupying that tricky middle ground between controlled satire and comic overkill. It's fun.
Sam Yan / 3 ย่าน / สามย่าน: Thai, Comedy – 105 mins – Usual regurgitation of Thai slapstick comedy. Rated 18+ in Thailand. In Thai only with no English subtitles.
Wise Kwai: The three stories of Sam Yan, take place in the Sam Yan neighborhood of Bangkok. One has comedian Kom Chuanchuen as a bus driver who finds a dead body on his coach and tries to dispose of it. Another is about two hapless thieves on the run from a hitman after a failed robbery.
And the third has the ubiquitous comic Kotee Aramboy as a director making a film with a famous but troubled actor.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010): US, Horror/ Thriller – Freddy Krueger returns in this contemporary re-imagining of the horror classic. A group of suburban teenagers share one common bond: they are all being stalked by Freddy Krueger, a horribly disfigured killer who hunts them in their dreams. As long as they stay awake, they’re okay. Rated R in the US for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror, and language. 18+ in Thailand. Generally unfavorable reviews: 34/37 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
New York Times, A.O. Scott: Some of the early set pieces — the opening sequence in a diner, for example, or another that unfolds after one of the victims has dozed off in class — dispense their shocks inventively, but for the most part the movie traffics in overly familiar scare tactics, setting up predictable false alarms and telegraphing in advance just when Freddy will pop into the frame and utter one of his labored witticisms.
The Bounty Hunter: US, Action/ Comedy – 110 mins – Gerard Butler plays a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter who gets his dream job when he is assigned to track down his bail-jumping ex-wife (Jennifer Aniston). Complications, as they say, ensue... Generally unfavorable reviews: 22/32 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes: Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston remain as attractive as ever, but The Bounty Hunter's formula script doesn't know what to do with them -- or the audience's attention.
Roger Ebert: I stared with glazed eyes at The Bounty Hunter. Here is a film with no need to exist.
Furry Vengeance: US, Comedy/ Family – 92 mins – A real estate developer moves his family from Chicago to Oregon when his job calls for him to oversee the building of a major housing development. But once there he faces a unique group of protesters: local woodland creatures who don't want their homes disturbed. Generally unfavorable reviews: 25/25 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes: A thin premise stretched far beyond serviceable length, Furry Vengeance subjects Brendan Fraser -- and the audience -- to 92 minutes of abuse.
Birmingham Post, Graham Young: If you only take your children to see movies like Up ... they’ll think every film is going to be fantastic. That’s not very good training for the disappointments of life, so Furry Vengeance does have one purpose.
Arizona Republic, Bill Goodykoontz: A stupid, mean-spirited little movie that ranks down there with the worst in recent memory.
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.
Showings may be cancelled due to curfew.
At Alliance Française on Friday, May 28, 8 pm: Holiday! No film showing. Visakha Bucha Day.
At Alliance Française on Friday, June 4, 8 pm: Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain / Amelie from Montmartre (2000) by Jean-Pierre Jeunet – 120 mins – France/ Germany, Comedy / Drama / Romance. English subtitles. Rated R in the US for sexual content. Generally favorable reviews 69/75 out of 100.
With Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Isabelle Nanty, Rufus, Jamel Debbouze.
Amelie is looking for love, and perhaps for the meaning of life in general. We see her grow up in an original if slightly dysfunctional family. Now a waitress in central Paris, she interacts curiously with her neighbors and customers, as well as a mysterious Photomaton-image collector and one of his even more mysterious photo subjects. Little by little, Amelie realizes that the way to happiness (and yet more subtle humor) requires here to take her own initiative and reach out to others...
– Alliance description
Roger Ebert: Amélie is a delicious pastry of a movie, a lighthearted fantasy in which a winsome heroine overcomes a sad childhood and grows up to bring cheer to the needful and joy to herself. You see it, and later when you think about it, you smile.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
May is “The Month of Surreal” at Film Space. June, “The Month of Alpha and Omega.”
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.
Showings may be canceled due to curfew.
At Film Space Saturday, May 29, 7 pm: Citizen Dog / Mah nakom / หมานคร (2004) by Wisit Sasanatieng – 100 mins – Thai, Comedy/ Fantasy/ Romance. This is one of my most favorite Thai films. It’s a crazy film, but I just love it.
Pod is a man without a dream. He's a country bumpkin who comes to work at a tinned sardine factory in Bangkok. One day, Pod chops off his finger and packs it in the can, prompting him to go around looking for his lost finger at various supermarkets. The incident convinces him to change his job, and Pod becomes a security guard at a large company. There he meets Jin, a lanky maid who carries a mysterious white book around even though she cannot read a single word written in it. The aimless Pod has a crush on Jin, a dreamy girl who dreams that one day she'll be able to decipher the meaning of the white book. In this bright, color-splashed world of director Wisit Sasanatieng, Bangkokians can grow tails and a dead grandmother can come back as a chatty gecko to deliver a few life lessons to her grandson. It's a world where innocence is so precious and yet impossible to preserve. The unusual love story between Pod and Jin is set against the playfully ironic portrait of Bangkok, the city that offers false dreams and real disillusionment.
Culture Vulture: Director and writer Wisit Sasanatieng has accrued a cult following for his "infamous" Thai musical western Tears of the Black Tiger. Noted as a tribute to the golden age of Thai cinema, it was his directorial debut and won him recognition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000. Sasanatieng’s second feature, Citizen Dog, has been adapted from the novel of the same name, written by his wife and published under her pen name Koynuch. Citizen Dog is striking for its "look"—the luridly saturated colors, the Ken Russell-like excesses of visual metaphor—and clever editing, its oft-noted (but misleading) Amelie-sweetness, and its picaresque surrealism. The infectious Thai pop music soundtrack (lyrics both advance plot and underscore the tongue-in-cheek, gooey-sweet message) and the fantastic-modern Bangkok conjured here create an eerily deja-vu Technicolor dream world.
Heroic Cinema: With its visceral imagery and child-like imagination, Wisit Sasanatieng’s new film Citizen Dog proves him to be Thailand’s answer to Tim Burton and Jean Pierre Jeunet. Sasanatieng has once again pushed the limits of popular imagery, as he did in 2000 with Tears of the Black Tiger. However, Citizen Dog has taken a positive new direction — its modern day setting and forceful social commentary give it a real focus and meaning.
Reel Film Reviews: Visually audacious, Citizen Dog is set in a world where corpses drive taxicabs, fingers are easily detachable, and teddy bears walk, talk, and drink heavily. Director Wisit Sasanatieng is clearly going for a vibe of unabashed fantasy, and on that level, the filmmaker certainly succeeds. The story revolves around Pod, a "country bumpkin" who arrives in Bangkok and finds himself falling for a woman named Jin . Sasanatieng, along with his cinematographer, imbues Citizen Dog with a bright and colorful sense of style that effectively carries the film through some of the more uneven sections of Sasanatieng's screenplay. And while it's clear that Citizen Dog won't appeal to everyone, Sasanatieng does a nice job of keeping the tone consistent - ensuring that, at the very least, the movie's never boring.
June is “The Month of Alpha and Omega” at Film Space.
At Film Space Saturday, June 5, 7 pm: The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) written and directed by Jamie Uys – 109 mins – Botswana/ South Africa, Action/ Comedy. Eschewing any form of conventional narrative in favor of a series of surreal sketches, this Japanese experimental comedy features a set of quirky and dysfunctional characters. Among them is the... A comic allegory about a traveling Bushman who encounters modern civilization and its stranger aspects, including a clumsy scientist and a band of revolutionaries. A Sho in the Kalahari desert encounters technology for the first time--in the shape of a Coke bottle. He takes it back to his people, and they use it for many tasks. The people start to fight over it, so he decides to return it to the God and throw the evil object over the edge of the earth--where he thinks it came from. Meanwhile, we are introduced to a school teacher assigned to a small village, a despotic revolutionary, and a clumsy biologist.
Capital Times (Madison, WI), Rob Thomas: Whimsical mix of African folk tale and slapstick comedy.