See Inception again! Get more of it!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, July 22, 2010
… through Wednesday, July 28
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Inception. Despicable Me.
This is Issue Number 38 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* The Sorcerer's Apprentice: US, Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy – 1 hr 50 mins – Directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure 1 & 2). You remember the plot: A sorcerer leaves his workshop in the hands of his apprentice, who gets into trouble when the broomstick he's tasked to do his chores for him somehow develops a mind of its own.
Well, anyway that’s the plot of the segment in Walt Disney’s Fantasia which is supposedly the origin of this movie. Which in turn is based on the late 1890s symphonic poem by Paul Dukas and the 1797 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ballad. It is said that the idea was mostly Nicolas Cage's, who wanted to make a feature length movie based upon the Fantasia segment. The cast is made up of Nicolas Cage as Balthazar Blake, a sorcerer and computer simulation expert, based on the magician Yen Sid portrayed in Fantasia; newcomer Jay Baruchel as Dave Stutler, an average college student who becomes Blake's apprentice – he is based on the character played by Mickey Mouse in Fantasia; and Alfred Molina as Maxim Horvath, an evil magician. Mixed or average reviews: 46/50 out of 100. (Bold scores are from Metacritic / light scores from Rotten Tomatoes.)
Rotten Tomatoes: The Sorcerer's Apprentice provides plenty of wizards and sorcery, for those who can't wait for the next Harry Potter installment. What it lacks, say critics, is originality and inspiration. Jay Baruchel stars as a college kid who finds himself in the midst of a battle against the forces of evil, one that's being spearheaded by Merlin disciple Balthazar (Nicolas Cage). The pundits say Apprentice is passable stuff, and its decent action scenes should please the kiddies, but overall it's a bland enterprise with an overabundance of CGI effects.
Emmanuel Levy: With many cooks in the writing, this CGI adventure is structurally disjointed and dramatically uninvolving, and the chemistry between reliable star Cage and charming Baruchel is not strong, which explains why the producers stress the literary pedigree.
JoBlo’s Movie Emporium, Chris Bumbray: Fairly fun, and occasionally exciting, but so bombastic that you'll feel more like you're being bombarded, than actually watching a film.
* Tukky / Tukky Chao Ying Khai Kob / Princess Tukky / ตุ๊กกี้ เจ้าหญิงขายกบ: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – Thai fantasy tale of an ugly princess in a magical land.
Inception: US/ UK, Drama/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 2 hrs 28 mins – Wow! Is this a movie and a half! A true action film, with car chases and gunfights, but for the thinking man! It’s a puzzle in a maze, and very exciting, to the emotions and the mind. I loved it! Has garnered a raft of ecstatic reviews from those attuned to Christopher Nolan’s brand of mind games, and for those who appreciate his sort of thing, this is certainly a not-to-be-missed event. Inception’s opening marked another commercial coup for writer-director Christopher Nolan following his record-breaking The Dark Knight, and it delivered the biggest opening of star Leonardo DiCaprio's career. DiCaprio gives another in his string of outstanding state-of-the-art acting jobs. Also starring Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard; It’s written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan, so it’s his baby entirely, and it’s a worthy successor to his memorable Memento. About controlling a person through messing with his dreams. Highly recommended! See it multiple times to get more of what's going on; no one will ever get it all. Generally favorable reviews: 75/78 out of 100.
Rotten tomatoes: Christopher Nolan is on a roll. He took the superhero movie to new heights with The Dark Knight, and now he's back with Inception, which critics are calling an ambitious, dreamy sci-fi heist movie that's quite a mind bender. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, an American expat skilled in stealing ideas from people's dreams. He's offered an opportunity to return to the States if he can pull off one last big job -- and, naturally, metaphysical complications ensue. The pundits say Inception is a visual marvel and a brainy head trip -- in fact, you'll probably have to see it multiple times to get everything that's going on.
Empire Magazine, Nev Pierce: With physics-defying, thunderous action, heart-wringing emotion and an astonishing performance from DiCaprio, Nolan delivers another true original: welcome to an undiscovered country.
Eye for Film, Anton Bitel: You will no doubt need to see Inception more than once to appreciate every nuance of Nolan's carefully balanced ambiguities - but, more importantly, you will also want to.
Metromix.com, Geoff Berkshire: The next step in [Christopher] Nolan's evolution as one of the master filmmakers of our time ... combines the jaw-dropping action of The Dark Knight with the ingenious plotting of Memento.
Fan the Fire, Martin Roberts: It is hugely impressive that, given what was at stake, Nolan has managed to not only pull this out of the bag, but to absolutely nail it. The film is as all-encompassing as the concept of its title: grand, epic, smart and unforgettable.
CHUD, Devin Faraci: Inception is a masterpiece. Making a huge film with big ambitions, Christopher Nolan never missteps and manages to create a movie that, at times, feels like a miracle.
Cinematical, Todd Gilchrist: a stunning achievement and the most completely entertaining film I've seen in years.
Despicable Me (3D): US, Animation/ Family – 1 hr 35 mins – I found it completely delightful! And so did the audience I was in. If you like animation, don’t miss it. It’s a complete surprise and has a voice all its own. Studio synopsis: “In a happy suburban neighborhood surrounded by white picket fences with flowering rose bushes, sits a black house with a dead lawn. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, hidden beneath this home is a vast secret hideout. Surrounded by a small army of minions, we discover Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), planning the biggest heist in the history of the world. He is going to steal the moon. (Yes, the moon!) Gru delights in all things wicked. Armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. Until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential Dad. The world's greatest villain has just met his greatest challenge: three little girls named Margo, Edith, and Agnes.” Generally favorable reviews: 72/72 out of 100. Shown in 3D at Airport Plaza, 2D and Thai-dubbed at Vista.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the ending credits! For awhile you will see some of the most fun to be had with 3D, as the minions of the film try out this trick and that.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Borrowing heavily (and intelligently) from Pixar and Looney Tunes, Despicable Me is a surprisingly thoughtful, family-friendly treat with a few surprises of its own.
IMDB Viewer: It is amazing! It is charming without being corny; hilarious without resorting to stupid pop-culture references; exciting without being overly loud... and the best thing: it plays like a fable.
It is absurd! ... but in a good way. The whole plan is to steal the moon, for crying out loud! How ridiculous could that be? And yet, we are led to root for the evil genius to be able to do just that. The whole thing is so tongue in cheek that you will pee in your pants laughing at the effects of having no moon for a few minutes (it is a quick flash of things, for they are so funny).
The movie is incredibly intelligent. The jokes are dead on and VERY imaginative (for example - and this is not a spoiler - pay attention to how they manage to produce light when Dr. Gru and two of his minions are in a ventilation duct at Vector's fortress - just delightful).
You will fall in love with his minions, and if you have a soft heart, with the three orphan girls.
OH, I almost forgot!! The 3D... this is the best usage of 3D I've seen (excepting "Avatar", of course) in a movie. There is a roller coaster ride scene that will literally "tickle your tummy" (like my kids said). For the first three seconds it easily compares to the effects found in "The Simpsons Ride" at Universal Studios.
The action sequences are thrillingly enhanced by the right amount of 3D, and make sure you STAY while the credits roll on. There is some OBVIOUS usage of 3D on those scenes with very funny results. Actually, here's a hint: sit down and enjoy these scenes while the people in the rows in front of you try to exit the theatre; the point of reference they offer will enhance the 3D in such a cool way that it will seem that they will bump into the staircase and the minions protruding from the screen (I suppose that was the intention of these bonus scenes, and boy they nailed it!) All in all, do yourself a favor and go WATCH it... I am sure I will do it again!
Killer Movie Reviews, Andrea Chase: a smart, funny, and perceptive animated film that dresses up its unabashed sentimentality with a droll mix of dry humor, deadpan slapstick, and clever writing that is slick, wicked, but never snooty.
Creative Loafing, Matt Brunson: Lets loose with a volley of inspired sight gags, a smattering of adult-oriented humor, and some screen-pushing innovations to justify the 3-D expense.
Predators: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 47 mins – I enjoyed this! Of its type, I thought it quite superior. I was impressed by the fun the actors seemed to be having with their characters (Lawrence Fishburne especially giving a deliciously-chewed performance!). I thought the photography was striking, and the music fascinating! Good moods established, tense and forbidding. Not that I’m a particular fan of this sort of adventure and action film, but of its ilk I thought it quite entertaining. If you like this sort of thing, you should like this quite well. Mixed or average reviews: 51/55 out of 100. At Vista only.
Urban Cinefile, Louise Keller: Delivering on its promise, Predators is a moody, unrelenting and attention-grabbing sci-fi thriller, filled with action, splendid visual effects, and packed with undulating tension. Beyond its spectacular effects and mega-budget, it's good old fashioned entertainment of the B-movie kind, with a strong premise, nicely drawn characters and ace performances from a team of actors spearheaded by Adrien Brody, that make us give more than a damn.
Scheduled for July 29
The Last Airbender: US, Action/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – 1 hr 43 mins – Generally unfavorable reviews: 20/28 out of 100.
I still can’t believe the disappointment that this is turning out to be! I was so looking forward to this, because it sounded like it could be a really interesting and cool fantasy film; and because I really want M. Knight Shyamalan to have another success again, and not be just a one shot director. With this story and this young boy, I was hoping for something as truly good as his first film, which also starred a young boy, The Sixth Sense.
But it seems not to be. The reviews have been some of the worst reviews in recent memory. I had thought, with that kind of a reception, it might not even get here to Chiang Mai, but they’re still advertising it.
Rotten Tomatoes: Goodness, what happened to M. Night Shyamalan? In the decade since The Sixth Sense, his reputation as a wunderkind has taken a steep dive, one that won't be revived with The Last Airbender, which critics are calling an incomprehensible, ugly mess. Based upon the popular Nickelodeon cartoon, Airbender tells the story of Aang (Noah Ringer), who utilizes his rare element-manipulation skills to bring peace to a war-torn fantasy world. The pundits say Airbender's baffling exposition and retrofitted 3-D effects make for a viewing experience that's hopelessly muddled in both plot and visuals.
Consensus: Despite flashy special effects, The Last Airbender squanders the potential of its popular source material on an incomprehensible plot, laughable dialogue, and a joyless sense of detachment.
io9: A lavish parody of big-budget fantasy epics. It's got everything: the personality-free hero, the nonsensical plot twists, the CG clutter, the bland romance, the new-age pablum. It's an absurdist masterpiece, in which a million things happen but nothing takes place. (In completely flat 3-D.) Stuff happens, and then more stuff happens, and what does it mean? We never know, because it's time for more stuff to happen. You start out laughing at how random and mindless everything in this movie is, but about an hour into it, you realize that the movie is actually laughing at you, for watching it in the first place.
And looking forward
Aug 5: Splice: Canada/ France/ US, Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 44 mins – Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, and Delphine Chaneac; Directed by: Vincenzo Natali. Elsa and Clive, two young rebellious and mostly repulsive scientists, defy legal and ethical boundaries to forge ahead with a dangerous experiment: splicing together human and animal DNA to create a new organism. Named "Dren,” the creature rapidly develops from a deformed female infant into a beautiful but dangerous winged human-chimera, who forges a bond with both of her creators - only to have that bond turn deadly. If you have sex with an underage creature that’s only 50% human, does that count? And when your wife has sex with a creature that’s 50% her daughter, is that incest or bestiality? These are the ridiculous moral questions raised by this film. If this subject keeps you awake nights, the movie is for you. I found the two leads disgusting human beings and their relationship with each other dismaying demonstration of the worst in human behavior. An unpleasant movie. Rated R in the US for disturbing elements including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence, and language. Generally favorable reviews: 66/67 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: It doesn't take its terrific premise quite as far as it should, but Splice is a smart, well-acted treat for horror fans.
Aug 5: Salt: US, Action/ Thriller – 1 hr 40 mins – Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, and Chiwetel Ejiofor; directed by Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger, Rabbit-Proof Fence). Studio synopsis: As a CIA officer, Evelyn Salt (Jolie) swore an oath to duty, honor, and country. Her loyalty will be tested when a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy. Salt goes on the run, using all her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture. Salt's efforts to prove her innocence only serve to cast doubt on her motives, as the hunt to uncover the truth behind her identity continues and the question remains: "Who Is Salt?" Early reviews: Generally favorable: 67/54 out of 100.
Variety, Justin Chang: Noyce rolls up his sleeves and delivers an unpretentious piece of action-movie craftsmanship that proves worthy of its star's own consummate professionalism.
Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt: While preposterous at every turn, Salt is a better Bond movie than most recent Bond movies, as its makers keep the stunts real and severely limit CGI gimmickry.
Aug 12: Toy Story 3: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy – 1 hr 43 mins – I have seen this, and I think it is inspired. I loved every minute of it. The set-up: Andy is now 17 and ready to head off to college, leaving Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, and the rest of the toy-box gang to ponder their uncertain futures. When the toys are accidentally donated to the Sunnyside Daycare center they're initially overjoyed to once again be played with, but their enthusiasm quickly gives way to horror as they discover the true nature of the establishment under the rule of the deceptively welcoming "Lotso" Bear. Now, all of the toys must band together in one final, crazy scheme to escape their confines and return home to Andy. Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, and many other very talented actors; there are 302 characters in the film! Reviews: Universal acclaim: 92/94 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Deftly blending comedy, adventure, and honest emotion, Toy Story 3 is a rare second sequel that really works.
Sun Online, Alex Zane: This is an almost flawless example of a movie that will keep pretty much any person of any age enthralled and entertained.
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.
On Friday, July 23, 8 pm: Hors de prix / Priceless (2006) by Pierre Salvadori – 1 hr 43 mins – France Comedy. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews 72/69 out of 100.
With Audrey Tautou, Gad Elmaleh, Marie-Christine Adam, Vernon Dobtchef, Jacques Spiesser.
Irène, a conniving adventuress, is under the impression that Jean, a timid waiter at a chic hotel, is a millionaire. When she discovers what he really is, she immediately ditches him. But Jean, in love, sets out in pursuit of her and finds her on the Côte d'Azur. He quickly goes broke, ends up adopting the lifestyle of the woman he loves and becomes an escort in a magnificent palace. This new situation brings him closer to Irène, who finally deigns to acknowledge his existence. She then starts giving him advice and, without realizing it, becomes more and more attached to him...
– Alliance Description
Directed by Pierre Salvadori, this delightful French comedy features Amelie star Audrey Tautou and the charming Gad Elmaleh (The Valet). Jean (Elmaleh) is a hardworking employee at one of southern France's elite resort hotels. He is known for his excellent work ethic, but that changes after a chance encounter with sexy hotel guest Irene (Tautou). Bored with her wealthy and much older boyfriend/benefactor, Irene is looking for some excitement. She finds it with Jean, whom she believes to be another guest at the hotel. When she discovers that he is merely an employee there, she is furious, and wants nothing more to do with him. Jean tries to rekindle their affair, but Irene lets him know that she is only interested in men with money--lots and lots of money. Jean is broke and brokenhearted, until he crosses paths with another hotel guest--this one an older woman of considerable means. He soon finds himself living the high life alongside Irene and her own rich patron. But Jean is far more interested in romance than in riches, and the glitzy fun and games quickly come to a head. The film makes the most of its dazzling location, luxuriating in the wealth and beauty of the French Riviera. The story obviously owes a firm tip of the hat to Breakfast at Tiffany's, and indeed Tautou's effortless grace and style do bring to mind Ms. Hepburn. In the hands of less skilled actors, the plot could have felt a bit flimsy, but Tautou and Elmaleh are so engaging, one can't help but root for them and their romantic hijinks.
On Friday, July 30, 8 pm: Ensemble, c'est tout / Hunting and Gathering (2007) by Claude Berri – 1 hr 37 mins – France Drama/Romance. English subtitles.
With Audrey Tautou, Guillaume Canet, Laurent Stocker, Francoise Bertin, Hélène Surgère.
The encounter of four people whose paths cross, a fate which results in them coming out of their shells, getting to know and love each other, and living together under the same roof. An office cleaner at night, Grace also does beautiful drawings in her spare time. Philibert, a young aristocrat mad about history, is timid, emotional, and solitary. He lives in a large apartment owned by his family. Franck, virile and tender, is a cook. He deeply loves his grandmother, Paulette, an elderly lady, fragile and amusing. Together they will learn to temper their doubts and sorrows so as to go forward and fulfill their dreams. They’ll discover each other and understand that together they are stronger.
– Alliance Description
Reel Film Reviews: The film marks the latest effort from prolific French filmmaker Claude Berri, who - though pushing 80 - offers up a trio of distinctly authentic 20-something figures and places them within the context of a compelling, surprisingly affecting storyline. This is despite the fact that Philibert ultimately receives short shrift in terms of character development, as he initially comes off as an effete stutterer and eventually (and inexplicably) winds up with a fiancée. Yet this proves not to be as problematic as one might've feared, with Berri's decision to instead place the emphasis on the charming coupling between Franck and Camille ensuring that one can't help but fall hook, line and sinker for the admittedly hackneyed romantic finish (which even includes a variation on the old race-to-the-airport maneuver!) Buoyed by Tautou and Canet's superb work, Ensemble c'est tout is one of those movies that essentially sneaks up on the viewer and makes a far more pronounced impact than one might've initially anticipated.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
July is “The Month of Consequences” 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. All films not in English are shown with English subtitles.
At Film Space Saturday, July 24, 7 pm: The Pianist (2002) directed by Roman Polanski – 150 mins – France/ Poland/ Germany/ UK, Biography/ Drama/ War – In English, German, and Russian. With English subtitles as needed. A Polish Jewish musician played by Adrien Brody struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. Rated R in the US for violence and brief strong language. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 85/87 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: An adaptation based on the autobiography of the acclaimed Polish composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman, who detailed his survival during World War II, and... An adaptation based on the autobiography of the acclaimed Polish composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman, who detailed his survival during World War II, and narrowly escaped a roundup that sent his family to a death camp. A composer and pianist, Szpilman played the last live music heard over Polish radio airwaves before Nazi artillery hit. There, in Poland, Szpilman struggled to stay alive--even when cast away from those he loved. He spent the duration of the war hiding in the ruins of Warsaw and scavenging for food and shelter. Szpilman eventually reclaimed his artistic gifts, and confronted his fears--with aid from the unlikeliest of sources.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Well-acted and dramatically moving.
Baltimore Sun, Michael Sragow: Roman Polanski's new movie may be the greatest historical film centered on an enigmatic character since Lawrence of Arabia.
Chicago Tribune, Michael Wilmington: A great movie on a powerful, essential subject -- the Holocaust years in Poland -- directed with such artistry and skill that, as we watch, the barriers of the screen seem to melt away.
At Film Space Saturday, July 31, 7 pm: Life is Beautiful / La vita è bella (1997) written and directed by Roberto Benigni – 1 hr 56 mins – Italy, Drama/ Romance/ War – English subtitles. Mixed or average reviews: 59/56 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: An adaptation based on the autobiography of the acclaimed Polish composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman, who detailed his survival during World War II, and... The film is a Chaplinesque fable about the power of imagination set against the stark reality of World War II Europe. The film combines satire,... The film is a Chaplinesque fable about the power of imagination set against the stark reality of World War II Europe. The film combines satire, physical comedy, social commentary and a touch of the surreal into a uniquely moving story of love. At the center of the fable is Guido, an enchanting individual with childlike innocence and grand dreams of owning his own book shop. It's 1939, and he has come to the Tuscan town of Arrezzo with his poet friend Ferruccio. With unabashed humor and joy, the two seek fortune and romance, ignoring the growing anti-Semitism and Fascist government that surrounds them. Guido falls in love with Dora, a beautiful young school teacher, and a fairy tale romance ensues.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Benigni's earnest charm, when not overstepping its bounds into the unnecessarily treacly, offers the possibility of hope in the face of unflinching horror.