The Prince of Persia next week!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, June 3, 2010
… through Wednesday, June 9
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Robin Hood. Shrek.
“What?! No Ghost Writer? Why?!”
This is Issue Number 31 of Volume 5 of these listings.
The Ghost Writer, despite previews and posters to the contrary at Airport Plaza, is not opening there today, nor are there any plans for it. I suppose we can still hope, but to face the truth, there isn’t all that much of a market here for good films. For example, week in and week out, for years, Film Space shows some of the greatest and most provocative films of the past decade every Saturday night, and they feel very lucky if they get an audience of 12. Most discouraging.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Sex and the City 2: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 146 mins – One that I am not wildly looking forward to, but it’s a hugely successful series in some circles, so maybe you are. The girls this time take off to and take on the United Arab Emirates – one of your favorite locales, right? Well, it’s not even shot there; they used Morocco instead. Critics have generally given it scathingly unfavorable reviews: 27/38 out of 100. Rated R in the US for some strong sexual content and language; 15+ in Thailand. Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes: Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda are back to drum up business for the elite fashion designers of the world. Only this time, their adventures take them away from "The City" to the remote paradise of Abu Dhabi, where Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has been asked by a sheik to head a PR campaign. Taking place 2 years after the events of the first film, Sex and the City 2 focuses on the troubles the foursome face when life has settled down, and critics say this sequel is one they could have done without. With a running time of close to two and a half hours, most feel the plot wears much too thin to sustain its length, making it an unfortunate continuation of the wildly popular HBO series.
USA Today, Claudia Puig: Steer clear of the mortifying mess that is Sex and the City 2. An insult to the memory of the cleverly written show and its celebration of friendship, it's a slap in the face for the four gal pals (often photographed at unflattering angles) and an affront to Muslims.
Let us count the ways in which this film offends: Crotch-cams, awful puns, leaden karaoke, and suggestive writhing in a Middle Eastern marketplace top the tasteless list.
Even more troubling is the movie's lampooning of Arabs. With his Cosmopolitan-style approach to all things feminine, director Michael Patrick King is out of his league attempting to comment on the inequitable treatment of Muslim women. He ends up mocking religious beliefs and making Carrie and her friends appear insensitive. This new mantle sits more awkwardly than a threadbare boa on their shoulders.
The premise has always trafficked in the superficial. But the TV series dipped beneath the surface and interlaced the fashion forays with honest, wry discussion about relationships. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) may have had a fairy-tale wardrobe, but her love life endured the ups and downs of reality. And the bond among the women felt authentic. Very little in this second movie feels genuine.
A Fan, thirty3: I saw this movie with a bunch of my girlfriends and we thought it was really fun. If you were a fan of Sex and the City, don't listen to the critics. Go see it, it's a comedy!!! It’s fun.
* Killers: US, Action/ Comedy/ Romance/ Thriller – 105 mins – Starring Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck. A vacationing woman meets her ideal man, leading to a swift marriage. Back at home, however, their idyllic life is upset when they discover their neighbors could be assassins who have been contracted to kill them. No press screenings, nobody’s seen it yet, opens today in the US, too new for reviews yet. Airport Plaza only.
* Poh-Tak / Po Taek / โป๊ะแตก: Thai, Comedy – 90 mins – Directed by popular comedian-turned-director, Mum Jokmok, Poh-Tak is a comedy parody that explores lives in front of and behind the cameras of the Thai film industry. Features many of the regulars on Mum’s very popular TV show.
Wise Kwai: Funnyman Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao teams up with veteran comedian Thep Po-ngam (สุเทพ โพธิ์งาม) in Po Taek, a satiric mockumentary-style behind-the-scenes look at the Thai film industry. There's shenanigans on the craft-service line and more wackiness during the traditional prayer ceremony to mark the start of production. You have thick-headed actors who can't take direction and stuntmen raising their amputated limbs to volunteer for a dangerous scene.
It's a busy time for Thep, who last year declared bankruptcy and put on a pair star-studded live benefit concerts to put him back on good financial footing.
During the red-shirt political protests there was talk of a boycott of Thep after the bald-headed comic appeared at "multi-color shirts" counter-protest rallies. Box-office results for Po Taek, in cinemas this Thursday, will show whether they were serious.
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.
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. ...
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. Mixed or average reviews: 53/54 out of 100.
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.
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.
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.
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 Airport Plaza only.
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.
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.
Scheduled for June 10
Prince of Persia: (Here we go again!) US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Romance – 116 mins – Based on the video game, which I’ve played and am now playing again, and enjoying – even though I’m not very good at it. I also have a version of it on my Nokia, and I’m even worse at that. It’s a sort of old-style Arabian Nights story, set in medieval Persia when a nefarious nobleman covets the Sands of Time, a legendary gift from the gods that allows its possessor to turn back time. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley. Mixed or average reviews: 47/52 out of 100.
And looking forward
June 10: The Karate Kid: You’ll get absolutely no information about this film from me. I’m boycotting it. It stars a talentless kid who is only in films because his father is so powerful in the business. The father is a terrific actor, the kid is a spoiled brat, nay, a little snot! Responsible single-handedly for ruining the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
June 24: Knight and Day: The film where Tom Cruise gets to show his chops again, after some absence. And early reports say this is a superior film in every way, with the old Cruise magic in place. And the magic of Cameron Diaz.
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, 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 Alliance Française on Friday, June 11, 8 pm: Un long dimanche de fiançailles / A Very Long Engagement (2004) by Jean-Pierre Jeunet – 133 mins – France/US Drama / Mystery / Romance. English subtitles. Rated R in the US for violence and sexuality. Generally favorable reviews 76/74 out of 100.
With Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Dominique Pinon, Clovis Cornillac, Jérôme Kircher, Chantal Neuwirth, Albert Dupontel, and Denis Lavant.
Five desperate men shoot themselves in order to be relieved from the horrifying frontline at the Somme, in WWI. A court-martial decides to punish them by leaving them alone in no-man's land, to be killed in the crossfire. Then all hell breaks loose and they all die. Or not? One of these men's fiancée, a young girl who can't walk since age 3, receives information that makes her suspect her boyfriend might have gotten away alive. So she embarks in a painful, long, and often frustrating ordeal to find out the truth.
Rotten Tomatoes: This World War I mystery finds limitless beauty in the nostalgia of loss. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose whimsical Amelie riveted audiences, A Very Long Engagement also stars Audrey Tautou -- the 21st century's Audrey Hepburn -- in the stubbornly emotional role of a widow in denial. Here she is Mathilde, a waifish young woman with a pronounced limp from childhood polio. Living with her quirky aunt and uncle in a farmhouse by the sea, and waiting desperately for her fiancé Manech (Gaspard Ulliel) to return from the war, she believes that if he were truly lost she would feel it in her heart. Thus, when the bad news arrives -- Manech and five fellow soldiers were exiled to No Man's Land for shooting off their own fingers in hope of being discharged -- Mathilde refuses to believe he is dead. Instead, she begins her own investigation into Manech's infantry, hiring a private detective and tracking down the wives and girlfriends of each of Manech's compatriots. Conducting countless interviews, Mathilde pieces together Manech's war stories -- which are told in earthshaking flashbacks involving gruesome explosions, flying guts, and massive suffering. And yet, the all-in-this-together humanity of these awful scenes, and the heartfelt bravery with which Mathilde absorbs the details of each battle, is undeniably moving. Jodie Foster appears as Elodie, one of the widows, in a charismatic yet muted performance and with a flawless accent. However, the most intriguing of the widows is Tina Lombardi (Marion Cotillard), a thrilling dominatrix-assassin bent on avenging her lover. A timeless masterwork that raises the bar for breathtaking camerawork, vivid landscapes, and fantastical storytelling, A Very Long Engagement is adapted from the novel by Sebastien Japriscot.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
June is “The Month of Alpha and Omega” 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, 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. Generally favorable reviews: 74 out of 100.
The film was made by a South African director and was financed with South African government funds, but was released as a Botswanan film because there was a hard international embargo against South Africa.
Capital Times (Madison, WI), Rob Thomas: Whimsical mix of African folk tale and slapstick comedy.
Roger Ebert: a nice little treasure.
Reel Film Reviews, David Nusair: It's no wonder The Gods Must Be Crazy was a huge hit upon its release some 20 years ago, as the film contains enough elements to please the majority of audiences. The film is jam-packed with moments of physical comedy, romance, and even abrupt violence. It's a bizarre mix that nevertheless manages to entertain, primarily due to writer/director Jamie Uys' obvious enthusiasm for his material.
There's not a single storyline at work here, though the most famous (not to mention effective) remains Xi (N!xau) and his efforts to throw a seemingly demonic coke bottle off the edge of the world. Said bottle has brought his tribe nothing but bad luck, so he's taken it upon himself to extricate the item from their lives the only way he knows how. Meanwhile, romance is in the air for a fetching young teacher and a bumbling scientist. The third plot strand, involving an evil revolutionary, is easily the film's weakest - but does serve to unite the other two stories in the movie's last act.
The Gods Must Be Crazy works best during the opening sequences, in which the film apes a documentary - complete with voice over from a stuffy British narrator. It's an intriguing way to introduce the various characters, and nicely sets the absurd tone that follows. The oddly named N!xau, who was actually a bushman when he was cast, proves to be a natural actor, winning us over with his charm and memorable facial expressions (and without speaking a single word of English!)
It's not hard to understand why the film was such a worldwide sensation, as it's entirely possible to watch the movie without understanding any of the dialogue. The Gods Must Be Crazy contains enough moments of physical comedy - along the lines of The Three Stooges or Abbott and Costello - to keep the majority of audiences semi-entertained.
At Film Space Saturday, June 12, 7 pm: Antichrist (2009) written and directed by Lars von Trier – 108 mins – Denmark/ Germany/ France/ Sweden/ Italy/ Poland, Drama. Only two actors, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Defoe, inhabit the space of this supernatural thriller directed by Lars Von Trier. The stars play a couple who attempt to grieve for their dead child by living in seclusion in the middle of a forest. But their story does not end there: in the forest, they encounter pure evil in Satan. With Von Trier at the helm, Antichrist is a challenging, intelligent film that doesn’t adhere to the conventions of cinema or religion. Mixed or average reviews: 49/54 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Gruesome, explicit, and highly controversial; Lars Von Triers arthouse-horror, though beautifully shot, is no easy ride.