Surprise! Shutter Island!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Wednesday, May 5, 2010
… through Wednesday, May 12
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bet: Shutter Island.
Films changed on Wednesday this week because of the Coronation Day holiday. Next change next Thursday.
Tony Jaa is back, and the barbarians have him!
This is Issue Number 27 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Shutter Island: US, Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 138 mins – I urge you to see this, but I have to warn you that a great number of people seem to dislike it immensely. I’m just very fond of it, that’s all there is to it. I think the discrepancy lies in expectations. If you go to see another great gritty Martin Scorsese film in the tradition of The Departed, you will not like it at all. Here he’s just having fun with an old film tradition – scary goings-on in a lonely island hospital for the criminally insane, with crazy people all around and frightening things happening in the middle of lightning storms. Within this framework, Scorsese is taking great joy in playing with his audience’s expectations, leading us all on a merry chase full of deceptions. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, and Max von Sydow (how can you go wrong with a cast like that!). Rated R in the US for disturbing violent content, language, and some nudity; 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews: 63/63 out of 100.
It’s only scheduled for two performances a day, 3:45 and 9:00 pm, and I suggest you see it quick – they may only be showing it one day! They’re very unpredictable!
Here’s the plot, more or less, for this horror fantasy: “It's 1954, and an up-and-coming US marshal is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital. He's been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn't been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors, whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. The marshal’s shrewd investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals "escape" in the confusion, and as the puzzling, improbable clues multiply, he begins to doubt everything - his memory, his partner, even his own sanity.”
Rotten Tomatoes: It may not rank with Scorsese's best work, but Shutter Island's gleefully unapologetic genre thrills represent the director at his most unrestrained.
Newark Star-Ledger, Stephen Whitty: It’s as startling a change of pace for this director as The Shining was for Stanley Kubrick, and often just as unnerving.
Richard Roeper: One of DiCaprio's best performances in an unforgettable psychological jigsaw puzzle.
New York Post, Lou Lumenick: With an Oscar on his mantelpiece, Martin Scorsese takes a breather from prestige pictures with Shutter Island, an exquisitely crafted potboiler offering up 2¼ hours of thrills, chills and Leonardo DiCaprio freaking out in a nuthouse during a hurricane.
Working from a pulpy Gothic best seller by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”), Scorsese deploys a top-drawer cast in a convoluted story mixing Cold War paranoia, the Holocaust, Catholic guilt, the mid-century debate over treatment of mental patients, lengthy flashbacks, vividly colored hallucinations — and a big-twist ending.
It certainly held my interest, even through some very talky sequences, as Scorsese draws on his encyclopedic knowledge of American cinema to provide a game of “spot the movie reference” (from Val Lewton thrillers of the ’40s to Scorsese’s old stomping ground at American International Pictures) throughout the entertaining proceedings.
Los Angeles Times, Betsy Sharkey: Martin Scorsese has created a divinely dark and devious brain tease of a movie in the best noir tradition with its smarter than you'd think cops, their tougher than you'd imagine cases to crack and enough nods to the classic genre for an all-night parlor game.
Reel Views, James Berardinelli: This movie delights in playing games with the audience's perceptions and has been crafted with such competence that it rises above the somewhat generic storyline that forms the basis of Dennis Lehane's novel. The strength of the film, like the book, is that it never allows the viewer to feel comfortable with what he is watching. That's because Shutter Island is presented from the perspective of an unreliable narrator and, as such, the lines between fantasy and reality sometimes blur so strongly that it's easy to become unanchored in trying to distinguish between what's real and what isn't. A case can be made that the movie is so enamored with this aspect of its approach that it fails to connect on an emotional level. Shutter Island addresses some powerful, disturbing concepts but, despite effective performances by the leads, the movie's psychological impact is minimal. It doesn't pack the powerhouse punch one has come to expect from Scorsese. Still, the director's consummate skill has lifted what might otherwise be a middling endeavor into something compellingly watchable. It's another Cape Fear.
The time is 1954, with the Cold War and its associated paranoia on the rise and the black magic of Nazi Germany still not entirely dispelled. The place is Shutter Island, a forbidding outcropping off the New England coast. Shutter Island houses Ashecliffe Hospital, an asylum for the criminally insane. Even more escape-proof than Alcatraz, Shutter Island virtually guarantees that the only ways out are through an officially sanctioned release or as a victim of the sea and the rocks it pummels. Federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), arrive on blustery early autumn day to investigate the disappearance of a prisoner, Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer), who has vanished without a trace. Her doctors, Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max von Sydow), are less than open about what's going on behind-the-scenes on the island, and their unhelpfulness arouses Teddy's suspicions that all is not what it appears to be. Clues lead him to believe he's not merely investigating the disappearance of one woman but that he has stumbled upon experimentation exported from Germany and being used to develop perfect Cold Warriors.
From a strictly narrative standpoint, Shutter Island reflects its source material. The movie is unlike either of the recent Lehane adaptations, Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, in that it's more gothic and atmospheric and divorced from the realities of modern tragedy. Shutter Island's position as a period piece allows Scorsese's stylized perspective to work effectively. He borrows liberally from film noir and conventional horror, synthesizing a result that at times recalls the way in which Stanley Kubrick approached The Shining. It's unlikely any other director would have made Shutter Island in quite the same way. The place is a character. The stormy weather is a character. Even the loud, thunderous music is a character.
We recognize from the beginning that something is "off." Without going into details which might spell out too many of the narrative's detours, I can say that Scorsese conveys the influence of an unreliable narrator without explicitly revealing where the perspective diverges from an objective view of events. As a result, we can never fully trust what we're seeing. In most movies, it's an easy enough task to differentiate between dream sequences, flashbacks, and concrete reality. These elements are present in Shutter Island, but the lines between them blur. Only in retrospect is it possible to delineate them.
Dark Horizons Analysis: Much like Paul Greengrass' Green Zone, this was originally pegged as an Oscar contender before a delay to the Spring and a first trailer came out which showed it to be a twisted mainstream thriller. This isn't Scorsese doing yet another mob crime drama or some biopic desperate for awards, this is Scorsese just indulging himself in a populist pulpy thriller - something he hasn't really done since his great remake of Cape Fear in 1991. It'll almost certainly disappoint a big swath of critics who want mobster-tragedy-Oscar-bait and can't handle the idea of their cinematic god Scorsese slumming it with such generic thriller nonsense. The film has been crafted with a lot of care with certain elements like the atmosphere and the performances scoring high praise.
* Ong-Bak 3 / องค์บาก 3: Thai, Action – 110 mins – Tony Jaa in the historical martial-arts conclusion of the two-part prequel to the Ong-Bak movie that made him a star in 2003.
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, Mickey Rourke, Garry Shandling, Paul Bettany (fresh from Legion), Samuel L. Jackson, and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Wild, lavish, and expensive. The wonderful actor Robert Downey Jr. again, of course, plays the role of Tony Stark, the wealthy playboy whose exploits as Iron Man are now public knowledge after his admission at the close of the first film. Tony is under pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military, but he is unwilling to give away too much.
Kheaw Ar-Khad / The Intruder / เขี้ยวอาฆาต: Thai, Horror/ Suspense – 115 mins – It’s payback time when hundreds of cobras attack residents of an apartment that was built on their breeding ground. The story goes that when the film was in production last year, two of the actors were actually bitten by the snakes. Make of that what you will. Rated 18+ in Thailand. Wise Kwai score: 3/5 – Just okay.
Wise Kwai: Karma comes back to bite the innocent and the not-so-innocent in The Intruder (Kheaw Aa-Kaard, เขี้ยว อาฆาต), a snakes-in-the-apartment thriller that is heavy on the melodrama and woefully short on camp but still entertaining for shocking body horror and snake bites that made me jump.
The action takes place in a down-at-the-heels, moldering apartment building that was built in the 1980s on the eastern edge of Bangkok in what is known locally as Nong Ngoo Hao -- the Cobra Swamp. Despite its rundown appearance and constant threat of snakes -- a vigilant guard spreads sulfur to keep the slitherers at bay -- the building is a popular dwelling for flight crews at the nearby Suvarnabhumi Airport and young hipsters griping about the poor Internet connection. There's also a family with a small child and a rock band that plays thrash metal too loudly.
Characters are briefly introduced and quickly dispensed with as the building is swiftly consumed by an all-out CGI snake invasion. Worm-shaped cobras fill the hallways, snarl the power cables, and strangle the phone service. They fill an elevator car and wriggle their way under a corpses' skin. ...
The characters that matter have backstories that are filled out piecemeal in between meals for the snakes. The people have as much depth as the digital reptiles. And, disappointingly, there's no cool catchphrase uttered by the hero Golf Akara, who's too grim and fatalistic to let loose with any colorful lines. Have to leave that to Samuel L. Jackson in Snakes on a Plane.
The best bits are the massed snake strikes. Mouths full of gleaming fangs zip in and take chunks out of a guy's arm. The cobras grow fat as the body count rises. The CGI creations are mixed here and there with the real thing. After all, something with real fangs bit a couple of the actors during the film's production, incidents that were duly reported in the media, likely at the urging of master promoter, producer, story writer, costume designer and snake-oil salesman, Poj Arnon.
Edge of the Empire / Kon Tai Ting Pandin / คนไททิ้งแผ่นดิน: Thai, Action/ Drama – 125 mins – A film inspired by Thai historical heroes who sacrificed their lives to fight against an invasion by the Han tribe. In southern Mongolia over 1,000 years ago, a small tribe existed called “Tai,” a colony enslaved by the Great Han. They were the forefathers of the present-day Thais. This week it’s in Thai only with no English subtitles, and only at Airport Plaza. Rated18+ in Thailand. Wise Kwai score: 3/5 – Just okay.
Wise Kwai:There’s a trailer for the historical epic Kon Tai Ting Pandin (คนไททิ้งแผ่นดิน), a.k.a.Edge of the Empire, posted at YouTube in high-def with English subtitles. The new reel shows off the work of filmmaker Paul Spurrier, director of the bargirl witchcraft thriller P, who served as director of photography on Edge of the Empire. Directed by Nirattisai Kaljareuk, it's been in production for four years -- much of it in post-production, giving it the "most extensive CG background work of any Thai film yet produced," says the YouTube description.
It's based on the legends of the heroic struggles and sacrifices of the ancient ethnic Tai people. Among the cast is songs-for-life icon Ad Carabao, who stars as the leader of a Tai group. He also wrote and sings the movie’s title track. "I feel passionate about a story that urges Thais to love each other and unite," Ad was quoted as saying by Soopsip in The Nation recently. "This is a very timely film." According to Ad, Nirattisai "really studied the background of the Tai and every bit of the history to get everything perfect."
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, May 13, 2010
Robin Hood: US, Action/ Adventure – Ridley Scott's long-brewing visit to Sherwood's most famous forest make it clear that this reboot isn’t Errol Flynn in green tights or Kevin Costner in a mullet - Robin Hood version 2010 is much more gladiator than prancing pilferer, and bringing him to life is Russell Crowe – all grunting and scowling. It promises to be 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, before he became a man in tights redistributing the crown's wealth.
The Bounty Hunter: US, Action/ Comedy – 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...
14 Blades / The Brocaded Robe Guards / Gam yee wai / 锦衣卫: Hong Kong/ China, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – A kung fu Wuxia thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and centered on a secret service agent (Donnie Yen) in the emperor's court who is betrayed and then hunted by his colleagues.Yen plays Green Dragon, an Imperial guard, and the best of a specially trained force of sword-slinging agents who take orders directly from the Emperor. When an evil Eunuch takes over the Imperial court, Yen’s associates turn against him while they’re on a secret mission, and Green Dragon then becomes public enemy number one.
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, May 7, 8 pm: Les choristes / The Chorus / The Choir (2004) by Christophe Barratier – 95 mins – France/ Switzerland/ Germany, Drama/ Music. English subtitles. Mixed or average reviews: 56/63 out of 100.
With Gérard Jugnot, Jacques Perrin, François Berléand, Marie Bunel, and Jean-Baptiste Maunier.
Set in 1948, a professor of music, Clément Mathieu, becomes the supervisor at a boarding school for the rehabilitation for minors. What he discovers disconcerts him - the current situation is repressive. Through the power of music, will Clément transform the students?
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: A memorable entry in the genre of inspirational pedagogical films, The Chorus is an uplifting tale of a masterful teacher who put his heart into his work and changed the lives of his students forever. With a soundtrack of boys' singing, the lovely music of this film is the glue that will stick to viewers long after watching it. Set in 1940s rural France, at a school for poor boys who are delinquent or orphaned, the story feels timeless in the way that it captures a crucial moment in the lives of the boys involved. Ranging from early elementary school level to junior high, the boys struggle for independence and self-expression. They defy authority, especially when it comes from their brutally unfair and abusive headmaster, Rachin (Francois Berleand). And in general, because they feel neglected by their families, or don't have any family at all, there is something disjointed and sullen about the boys. Only after their teacher, Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot), shows them that he will guide them, befriend them, and teach them by piquing their curiosity, not by insisting or punishing, do they begin to change. The choir he forms, and the songs he teaches the boys, become a source of pride for them, allowing them to rise above the confines of their meager and stifling school, and dream of a bright future. Director/writer Christophe Barratier has created a moving and beautiful film with more than a few life lessons hidden within. The music, written by Bruno Coulais, features the angelic voice of Jean-Paul Bonnaire, who plays Morhange in the film.
At Alliance Française on Friday, May 14, 8 pm: Le pacte des loups / Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) by Christophe Gans – 142 mins – Action/ History/ Horror/ Mystery. English subtitles. Rated R in the US for strong violence and gore, and sexuality/nudity. Mixed or average reviews: 57/63 out of 100.
With Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Jean Yanne, Vincent Cassel, Émilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci.
In 1760’s France, the Chevalier de Fronsac and his Iroquois friend Mani are sent by King Louis the 15th to the Gevaudan province to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast. Based on the true story of the Beast of the Gévaudan that terrorized France in the mid-18th century, the film aims to tell first and explain afterwards...
– Alliance description
Some consider this to be among the classiest horror/adventure films of all time.
There actually was a Beast of Gévaudan (La Bête du Gévaudan) which was a real wolf-like creature that prowled the Auvergne and South Dordogne regions of France during the years 1764 to 1767, killing about 100 people, often in bizarre circumstances, and was never caught. All the primary characters, except the Native American Mani, actually existed and lived during reign of King Louis XV.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
May is “The Month of Surreal” 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, May 8, 7 pm: El Topo (1971) by Alejandro Jodorowsky – 125 mins – Mexico, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Western. The Definitive Cult Spaghetti Western. According to IMDb, this was first released as an underground film, and it was thanks to John Lennon that the film acquired a worldwide distribution. He was so impressed by this movie that he urged a close friend of his to buy the rights and take charge of distribution. Generally favorable reviews: 68 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: With its combination of surreal imagery and assault on the ideals of the Western, El Topo may appear to be equal parts Luis Buñuel and Sam Peckinpah, but it's all Alejandro Jodorowsky. In addition to his directing duties, Jodorowsky contributes to the film's writing, music, editing, and costumes, as well as starring as El Topo ("the Mole"). El Topo journeys across the desert to battle a group of gunfighters, but it's not the plot that's important in this midnight movie classic. The masterful blend of brutal violence and beautiful images make Jodorowsky's film essential viewing for anyone looking beyond the offerings of the megaplex. Decades have passed since its first screening, but El Topo hasn't lost any of its ability to shock and amaze.
Eye for Film, Anton Bitel: A mystic trip through political, religious, and philosophical terrains, gunning down all normative notions of what the western - or indeed Western civilization - is supposed to be.
At Film Space Saturday, May 15, 7 pm: Asujaak / The Sperm (2007) by Taweewat Wantha – 93 mins – Thai, Comedy/ Sci-Fi. A teenage rock musician masturbates gleefully and often. Way too often. One night, flying sperm escape and impregnate local women. The babies grow into an army of little creatures with the teen's head -- and libido. Generally utterly ignored by Thai critics and audiences when it appeared in 2007, it actually has a lot going for it, and is a hilarious send up of Thai society. But it seems no Thai girl wanted to be seen going to a movie with “sperm” in the title, so the film horribly bombed.