See our greatest living actress!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, July 8, 2010
… through Wednesday, July 14
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (both in 3D).
This is Issue Number 36 of Volume 5 of these listings.
Major Cineplex continues to show Toy Story & Toy Story 2 as two completely separate movies, splitting in two the double feature that has been playing elsewhere in Thailand as well as around the world. You get a tiny discount by buying a voucher for both for 399 baht – either one baht or 41 baht depending on the day, but your best bet is to go on Wednesday when most everything is discounted, and you get a regular seat for these 3D films for 130 baht each. The two films have gotten high praise, originally and on this go-around, and I highly recommend you see them. I just saw Toy Story 2, and I loved it!
Despicable Me (3D) has been rescheduled for July 15.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Letters to Juliet: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 105 mins – Starring Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Chris Egan, Gael García Bernal. Directed by Gary Winick. When a young American travels to the city of Verona, home of the star-crossed lover Juliet Capulet of Romeo and Juliet fame, she joins a group of volunteers who respond to letters to Juliet seeking advice about love. After answering one letter dated 1951, she inspires its author to travel to Italy in search of her long-lost love and sets off a chain of events that will bring a love into both their lives unlike anything they ever imagined. Mixed or average reviews: 50/52 out of 100. (Bold scores are from Metacritic / light scores from Rotten Tomatoes.)
It is such a joy for me to watch an actress of such skill as Vanessa Redgrave: she simply has the power to take command of your emotions and take you on a fascinating journey. And you trust her with your emotions because you instinctively feel that she will treat them with respect. And she does.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Letters to Juliet has a refreshingly earnest romantic charm, but it suffers from limp dialogue and an utter lack of surprises.
Reel Views, James Berardinelli: Letters to Juliet, I am happy to report, successfully applies the romantic formula and, as a result, provides a relaxing 105 minutes. If it drags a little toward the middle, I'm willing to cut it some slack. What's important is that it avoids the unfunny jokiness and juvenile tendencies that define too many romantic comedies while also sidestepping mawkishness. By falling somewhere in between - more serious than the average comedy and lighter than the typical drama - Letters to Juliet feels just about right. This love story isn't going to appeal to those who don't appreciate the genre; detractors will not become adherents. It is sweet and sentimental and embraces the fantasy.
Letters to Juliet is being released as counterprogramming to the early blockbuster films of the 2010 summer, with its primary competition being Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood. Indeed, this movie has no designs on potential viewers of those two films; it wants to provide an alternative for anyone more interested in a story about people and love than action and testosterone. For those to whom this appeals, it is a worthy effort.
Vanessa Redgrave with Amanda Seyfried
Movie Line, Stephanie Zacharek: Gary Winick’s Letters to Juliet is such a gentle romantic comedy that it barely feels like a romantic comedy at all, at least not in the way we currently define the genre. There’s no Amy Adams hilariously slipping through the mud in her high heels, no Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey uproariously pretending not to like each other as they traipse around some tropical island in their shorts, no dueling brides catfighting about who’s going to have her dream wedding at the Plaza on a specific day. Letters to Juliet also has the distinction of featuring a marvelous performance from the woman who is, in my view, our greatest living actress. Vanessa Redgrave puts all she’s got into something other actors might just toss off or throw away. She’s present every moment; this is an actress who doesn’t have a second to waste.
And it’s simply a pleasure to watch a movie that doesn’t look as if it were dug up from the bottom of a litter box. The Director of Photography here is Marco Pontecorvo (son of filmmaking great Gillo), and while you could argue that it’s hard to mess up a picture shot in the Tuscan countryside, Pontecorvo does more than just point the camera at beautiful scenery. He gives the movie’s interiors a luxe, cozy glow; he treats sunlight on stucco or stone as a thing of casual beauty, instead of forcing it into stiff compositions. The picture never looks fussed-over or flattened — it breathes, as opposed to just looking merely pretty. Pontecorvo approaches the actresses with the same uncalculated respect.
If even half the movies coming out of Hollywood these days, regardless of the genre they fit into, were made with as much care and spirit as Winick and his cast have poured into Letters to Juliet, the current moviegoing landscape would be a much greener, happier place.
* Predators: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 107 mins – Sci-fi sequel about a group of elite warriors who discover that they were brought to another planet by a race of bloodthirsty alien creatures known as Predators to be hunted like prey in a human game reserve. Starring Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, and Topher Grace. Directed by Hungarian filmmaker Nimród Antal (Kontroll), and produced by the maverick film director Robert Rodriguez. Here we have a revamp of the Predator film series focusing on human survival on the Predator's home planet. It’s not a rewriting of the original Predator but is intended as a sequel to both Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990), the two Arnold Schwarzenegger films, ignoring completely what happened in the two Alien vs. Predator films. Too early for reviews.
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.
In the attention-grabbing opening frames, we watch as Brody's Royce freefalls through the sky, and lands unceremoniously in the middle of an impenetrable jungle filled with gigantic trees with protruding branches, thick undergrowth, barren rock faces, and massive waterfalls. Soon, he and his six unknown companions (who all arrive in similar fashion), all armed with heavy artillery, are up against a devastating adversary with a cloaking device, infra red capabilities, brute force, and minds as contorted as the gnarled tree trunks around them. Thrown together by necessity rather than choice, they're an unruly bunch of alpha stereotypes, made more credible by the fact their behavior reflects who they really are. Predictably (and at times with humor), there is conflict between them, as they realize it is not coincidental that they, as professional killers and criminals have been chosen and brought here.
Brody is utterly credible as the focused, adaptable mercenary Royce, who thinks on his feet, strategizes and whose survival skills are second to none. He quotes Hemingway, too, much to the surprise of Alice Braga's Isabelle, the athletic Israeli sniper whose Achilles heel is her heart. Topher Grace shows another side as the disgraced doctor with a secret. Each member of the group adds color - the samurai warrior who doesn't speak much (Louis Ozawa Changchien), the tattooed serial killer (Walton Goggins), the African soldier-warlord (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali; 'I'z as bad as you are; those things are worse'), the tough Russian soldier (Oleg Tartakov), the recluse with an imaginary friend (Laurence Fishburne) and cowboy assassin (Danny Trejo), whose unforgettable face speaks volumes from each wrinkle, scar and crevice.
The visuals are stunning, as are the awesome, terrifying predators, which become more formidable as we climb the pecking order. It's a race against time, a battle of wits as Royce and gang keep one step ahead of the brutal force and formidable destruction of their adversaries. It's edge of the seat stuff with John Debney's pounding music score enhancing the massive stunts, superb cinematography, lighting and strong production elements. Fantasy sci-fi action in impressive form.
Film Ink, Jack Sargeant: Like his 2003 cult movie Control, Nimrod Antal's tight direction and attention to visual detail enables characters to emerge naturally, and wisely the brief scenes in which the protagonists discuss (god forbid) their ethics and their histories are kept to a bare minimum. The emphasis here is on following their attempts to survive.
There is a whole fan culture around the predators, with everything from the alien species' culture and biology emerging in computer games, comics, and novels. While Predators doesn't get bogged down in this, there are occasional nods to a wider universe that the alien hunters inhabit. Fans of the genre can enjoy this; knowing the franchise is in good hands, while casual viewers out for science fiction and horror action will find enough thrills here for satisfying viewing.
* Sorry Saranghaeyo / Kao Rak Ti Korea / เการักที่เกาหลี Sorry ซารังเฮโย / ซารังเฮโย เการักที่เกาหลี: Thai/ South Korea, Comedy/ Romance – 130 mins – Kana is a girl who is so obsessed with Korean styles that she convinces Mara, her sister to travel to South Korea with her. In South Korea, Kana and Mara pursue their separate dreams - Kana wants to see Ajoo, her favorite Korean star while Mara wishes to look pretty by means of Korean surgery. Directed by Poj Arnon (Bangkok Love Story (2007)).
Wise Kwai. Feb 23, 2010: Poj Arnon is the latest Thai filmmaker to be caught up in the trend of Korean pop culture. He started shooting a movie last week in Gangwon Province, South Korea.
Sorry Sarahaeyo (Sorry Sa Rang He Yo) is a Thai-South Korean co-production aimed at promoting tourism in South Korea. It's a romance about a vacationing Thai woman, played by Thai-Japanese model Haru Yamakushi, who falls in love with a South Korean actor, played by singer Noh Ah Joo.
At a press event in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago, Poj stated it’ll be the first time he’s directed a romance about a woman in love with a man. He’s better known for his katoey comedies and the gay romance Bangkok Love Story.
Left: Director Poj
Production on Sorry began on February 17 in Gangwon Province and is expected to wrap by March 2. Shooting locations will include Chuncheon City, Pyeongchang County, Sokcho City, and Kang Neung City. The movie is co-produced by Poj's production company Film Guru and South Korea's Don't Worry.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: US, Fantasy/ Romance/ Thriller – 124 mins – The pack is back again! In this episode, which I know you’ve been waiting for breathlessly, Bella (Kristen Stewart) once again finds herself surrounded by danger as Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings. In the midst of this, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward (heartthrob Robert Pattinson, a vampire) and her friendship with Jacob (heartthrob Taylor Lautner, member of a Quileute Wolfpack) – knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the struggle between vampire and wolfpack, and a tissy fit between fans of each. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella is confronted with the most important decision of her life – and the film’s fans. Mixed or average reviews: 58/56 out of 100. The Vista version is Thai-dubbed only.
Rotten Tomatoes: Hey, Twihards -- you're probably going to see Eclipse anyway, so feel free to ignore the reviews. However, for the uninitiated who find themselves dragged to the theater, the critics say Eclipse is a big step up from New Moon -- even if it still suffers from slack pacing and portentous dialogue. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner are all back as the principals in every tween's favorite supernatural love triangle; this time, all three are threatened by an army of newborn vampires assembled for the purpose of killing Bella to indirectly enact revenge upon the Cullens. The pundits say new director David Slade does well with the material, underscoring the emotional developments with some reasonably stirring action. However, they also note Eclipse is still too often a slog, with so-so acting, middling special effects, and lots of dead passages.
The New York Times, A.O. Scott: Eclipse, directed by David Slade ... is a more robustly entertaining film than either of its predecessors. The previous entry, New Moon, was a sustained (and to some viewers, tedious) exercise in delayed gratification. You had to wait a long time to see Mr. Lautner unveil his pectoral muscles or morph into a wolf, and Mr. Pattinson vanished altogether. This time we are treated to nicely costumed flashbacks to vaguely defined earlier eras, album-cover tableaus of the Cullen clan and the Volturi (including Dakota Fanning but minus Michael Sheen, for now) and some moderately thrilling if visually muddy fight sequences.
If there is a bit more humor on display here — some of it evidence that an element of self-conscious self-mockery is sneaking into the franchise — there is also more violence, and, true to the film’s title, a deeper intimation of darkness. What there isn’t, as usual, is much in the way of good acting, with the decisive and impressive exception of Ms. Stewart, who can carry a close-up about as well as anyone in movies today.
Mr. Lautner still seems to have recently escaped from a high school cheerleading squad somewhere, and Mr. Pattinson’s pout conveys not the existential angst of a lovelorn immortal, but rather the peevishness of a guy who just lost a Greta Garbo lookalike contest — for the third time in a row! — to his own girlfriend.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is rated PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned). It has blood, death, and either nothing but sex or no sex at all.
Eclipse Exegesis Number 2!
In case you need some clarification on who is who in the large cast of characters, and would like some back-story, Rotten Tomatoes has come up with an updated Guide for the 11 main characters, and ones on several groups: the wolfpack, the Newborns, and Bella’s high-school friends (Mike, Jessica, Eric, and Angela – the average-Joe teenagers who haven’t a clue as to what’s going on all around them). You can find these little essays at the following link, click on it to go there:
As promised, here’s their take on the Wolfpack. (You’ll remember I discussed the Quileute tribe of Washington State at length when the last episode came out, and how their myths describe them as being descended from wolves.)
Not to be confused with werewolves, who only appear in the presence of the full moon and rarely hunt in packs, the Quileute Wolfpack descend from ancient Quileute warriors. In a supercharged version of adolescence, the affected Quileute experience a rapid and extreme period of growth before their shape-shifting abilities are fully realized. In addition to having burning hot skin (the opposite of vampires), they will quickly appear to age to their mid-20's, pausing their aging process until they cease taking on the spirit of the wolf later in their lives.
Together, the Wolfpack are especially strong. They can communicate with each other while in wolf form, enabling them to alert each other of danger. Much like X-Men's Wolverine, the members of the Wolfpack are not only durable, but they possess superhuman healing abilities. The "phasing" process, when they turn from human to wolf form, is nearly instantaneous, does not require a full moon, and can be controlled through discipline. In addition to their strength and enormous size, they are also able to outrun vampires at speeds that exceed 100 miles per hour, which is especially helpful when hunting.
The phasing talents of the wolf only arrive when vampires are present, ensuring their land is even better protected in the presence of the nearby Olympic Coven. In human and wolf form, the chosen Quileute have heightened senses of smell and vampire detection, which were especially useful in New Moon, when Sam Uley's pack, including Jacob Black, helped protect Bella against the looming threat of Victoria.
New Wolfpack member to watch: Jacob’s buddy BooBoo
There’s a new member in the wolfpack you might like to keep your eye on – Seth Clearwater, played by the forever shirtless BooBoo Stewart.
Though fairly young, BooBoo seems perfectly qualified to play a member of the wolfpack. He was Martial Arts World Champion in 2002 and 2003, and was inducted into the Martial Arts Junior Hall of Fame in 2004. Even more, he is of Native American ancestry (Blackfoot) – but also is of Scottish, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean heritage. And he has never had a girlfriend. That’s good; wolfing takes a lot of time!
As any TwiHard will tell you, Seth Clearwater becomes more and more important in the next two episodes. In fact, he and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) become pretty much inseparable.
In the current film, Seth Clearwater spends most of his time as a wolf, with sandy colored fur, turning into sort of a wolf-buddy of the two main lovers played by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.
Above: Jacob’s wolfpack buddy, Seth Clearwater,
played by BooBoo Stewart
Right: BooBoo as Seth in his wolf state.
Very good-looking wolf!
Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (both in 3D): US, Animation/ Family – 80 mins & 92 mins – Playing throughout the world as a double-feature but unaccountable split in two here in Chiang Mai by Major Cineplex. You do get a tiny savings if you buy their special voucher for both at 399 baht. That gives you a savings of one baht on Monday and Tuesday, or 41 baht if it’s Thursday through Sunday. Your best bet is to go on a Wednesday, their “Movie Day,” where everything is heavily discounted, except for premium films. On Wednesday, each Toy Story ticket is 130 baht. Honeymoon seats are always 20 baht more.
Not quite the same as a double-feature, but what can you do?
Yesterday, I took advantage of their “Movie Day” to see Toy Story 2 for 130 baht. What a truly outstanding animated film! I’m not sure how I missed it the first time around in 1999, but I have to say it was a real pleasure here and now. I found myself laughing out loud numerous times, and getting involved and moved with these fascinating characters. An extraordinary film! It was gussied-up into 3D in a post-production process – nothing gimmicky, just a little added depth. And this time the processing seemed to work very well indeed. It’s probably not necessary, but it’s nice all the same. I highly recommend you see these two terrific Pixar films, here, in a cinema, with an audience, like you should. Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, and John Ratzenberger. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 96/93 out of 100 for the package; also universal acclaim for each separately.
From the studio, Disney/Pixar: This extraordinary double feature, taking the latest advances in digital 3D technology "to infinity and beyond," will play exclusively in 3D. Toy Story, the industry's first ever computer-animated feature and the first feature released by Pixar Animation Studios in 1995, and Toy Story 2, the critically acclaimed sequel that debuted in 1999, were both directed by filmmaker John Lasseter. Both films have been meticulously re-rendered in 3D from the original digital files using the latest state-of-the-art technology.
Variety, Todd McCarthy: A fresh look at the two Toy Story films, which are being released today as a double bill in 3D for a two-week engagement, only reaffirms what fresh, lively, and imaginative creations they are.
New Orleans Times-Picayune, Mike Scott: These are paradigm-shifting masterpieces, films that launched a second golden age of animation. Of course they hold up.
Newsweek, David Ansen: The superrealist images beguile us with their bold wit, and the storytelling is so tight, urgent, and inventive there doesn't seem to be a wasted moment. Which makes you wonder – why can't scripts this clever be written for human beings?
The Karate Kid: US/ China, Action/ Drama/ Family/ Sport – 140 mins (yes, it’s a long bugger!) – God, what an awful movie! Truly dreadful, incredibly bad! What a talentless kid who’s pushed on us by his doting Father. He’s enough to give dreadlocks a bad name! I did root for the bullies to win. And the kid’s blandness even infects Jackie Chan, encouraging him to give his most wooden performance ever. It has some touristy scenes of Beijing, no doubt required by the Chinese government as a part of the co-production deal, and as it turns out that‘s the best part of the picture. Stay away! Generally favorable reviews: 61/64 out of 100, and it’s a mystery to me how it got such high scores. The Vista version is Thai-dubbed.
petulant, rude, and entitled
Rotten Tomatoes: It may not be as powerful as the 1984 edition, but the 2010 Karate Kid delivers a surprisingly satisfying update on the original. Produced by Will Smith and featuring his son, Jaden, in the title role and Jackie Chan as the martial arts mentor, The Karate Kid remake appears to be less faithful to its source material than A-Team is. Key changes include a younger Kid than Ralph Macchio was in the 1984 smash, a new location that he moves to (China instead of Los Angeles; a big change because both the Kid and his mentor were cultural outsiders in the original, now it's just the Kid), a glossier veneer and a different martial art: kung fu instead of the titular karate (the picture has sometimes been called The Kung Fu Kid by its producers).
Star Tribune, Colin Covert: The new Kid feels like a big-budget audition reel for sweet, miscast Jaden Smith, with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith hovering above the bloated 135-minute project as doting parents/producers. A storm cloud of calculation overhangs the whole enterprise. Smith is a cute kid but fundamentally wrong for the role. The protagonist in the original film was in his mid-teens, a young man in the making. Here, prepubescent seventh-graders enact heart-thumping romance and bone-thumping beat-downs, which makes for uncomfortable viewing.
New York Post, Kyle Smith: Director and script work very much to the disadvantage of the lead actor, who to put it kindly, would not yet be considered leading-man material were it not for his father, who is also a producer of the film. I can’t imagine what it might be like to be the son of the biggest movie star in the world but it would appear that such an experience doesn’t exactly stuff you with humility. Young Smith comes across as petulant, rude, and entitled, especially when his mom keeps telling him to pick up his clothes and he keeps refusing. You don’t exactly root for the bullies to stomp Dre, but nor are you overcome by outrage when they do.
Brian Orndorf: The modern Karate Kid isn’t fooling around: It’s nearly a scene-for-scene remake of the 1984 picture, with only minor deviations in plot and characterization – one long case of déjà vu. Smith and Chan lack chemistry, solemnly going through the paces without much in the personality department. Stillborn emotions are expected from Chan (he’s never been much of an actor), but Smith is handed a plum role and all he can do is channel the shtick his father Will made famous. Smith lacks humility to play the underdog, doing more posing than reflection, trying to play it cool when the character is anything but. The new Karate Kid is careful not to render the boy as any sort of dork, making the character’s budding confidence redundant. It’s a disappointing performance from a young actor who doesn’t have the chops to carry his own movie. There’s nothing to cheer for with Smith, who claims victory from the start. At least with Ralph Macchio (who originated the role) there was vulnerability, mischief, and angst. Smith looks like he boldly stepped out of a hip-hop video, making any rooting for the bullies to win not entirely uncalled for.
ReelViews: James Berardinelli: In the remake, we have entered the Valley of Darkness. This is a grim motion picture. The bullies are more vicious than their predecessors, the Karate Kid rarely smiles or jokes, and the mentor's dour demeanor veils a deep tragedy. Given today's society's predisposition toward the serious and cynical, the change to The Karate Kid's tone is warranted. It grounds the movie and prevents it from coming across as a self-parody. The trade-off - one some viewers will surely disagree with - is that the sense of innocence that permeated the 1984 version is gone. Despite the PG-rating and the reduction in age of the protagonist (from high school to junior high), The Karate Kid 2010 is a more adult production than its forebear.
Canadian Press, Christy Lemire: Ralph Macchio was what, like, 35 when he played Daniel? But he looked 16, as his character was, so he seemed like a good fit. Now the character, Dre, is 12 — as is the film's star, Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada (both executive producers). But with his pretty face and slight build, Smith looks about 9. It's inescapably distracting. And so neither the fighting nor the romance with a girl who's out of his league — two key components of The Karate Kid — makes sense. Even after the obligatory training montage, Smith is still a tiny, lean kid. Macchio didn't exactly bulk up, but he had an attitude about him, an East Coast swagger, that helped make his transformation into a karate master believable. Plus it's just uncomfortable watching kids this age beat each other up to the point of serious injury; there's no one to root for in that.
Toronto Star, Peter Howell: The Karate Kid is now played by Jaden Smith, the 11-year-old son of doting Hollywood parents Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. So desperate are the Smiths to have Jaden join the family firm, they’ve shoe-horned him into a role requiring dramatic, comedic and romantic chops that are beyond his slim abilities. Young Jaden was fine as his dad’s son in The Pursuit of Happyness, which required no feat of credulity or serious screen time.
He’s woefully out of his league here — especially as The Karate Kid indulgently runs 2 hours, 20 minutes, at least a half hour more than it needs, while delivering less fun and inspiration than before.
There’s also the major issue of Jaden’s minor age and size, both of which are lacking heft. The considerably bigger Macchio was 23 when the original movie was released, but his boyish looks made him look years younger. I’m troubled by the large amount of violence practiced by and directed against kids who have barely reached puberty — the body slams and bone crunches seem all too real. You really do wonder whether to cheer or to contact child welfare authorities.
Knight and Day: US, Action/ Comedy/ Thriller – 110 mins – The film where Tom Cruise gets to show his chops again, after some absence. And he is charming, no doubt about it. It’s more of a rom-com than an action flick. I was mildly amused by it. Cruise and Cameron Diaz play a fugitive couple on a glamorous and sometimes deadly adventure where nothing and no one - even themselves - are what they seem. Mixed or average reviews: 46/56 out of 100.
NY Times, A.O.Scott: A loud, seemingly interminable, and altogether incoherent entry in the preposterous and proliferating “action-comedy” genre, it stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz as a pair of hastily sketched cartoon characters hurtling from plane crash to car chase to further car, helicopter and motorcycle chases, one involving stampeding bulls.
Rotten Tomatoes: Say what you will about Tom Cruise's oddball public persona, but the guy has charisma to spare. Critics say his presence goes a long way toward enlivening the action/ comedy/ romance Knight and Day, which is otherwise short on logic and ultimately favors bombast over charm. Cruise stars as a (possibly insane) rogue agent who recruits Cameron Diaz for his latest globe-trotting mission -- but is he who he seems? The pundits say Cruise and Diaz are fine, but this implausible (and surprisingly violent) film is undercut by strained plotting.
Bitter/Sweet / Kam Fah Ha Sut Rak / ข้ามฟ้าหาสูตรรัก: US/ Thai, Comedy/ Romance – Studio synopsis: “American businessman Brian Chandler has a perfect life with a great job and beautiful fiancée. When his boss, renegade coffee mogul Calvert Jenkins sends him to Thailand to inspect a crop for purchase, Brian meets Ticha, a beautiful Bangkok executive who has long-since given up on the prospects of finding love. At the urging of her old village and her coffee farmer parents, Ticha brings Brian to the coffee fields of Southern Krabi, with the hopes that Brian will purchase coffee there.” In Thai and English with English and Thai subtitles as needed. At Vista only, one showing a day.
The film won awards at last year's WorldFest in Houston, and played in LA's Feel Good Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Director and Best Cinematographer.
Wise Kwai: What an embarrassment. Stilted, awkward dialogue and laughable contrivances make this movie more bitter than sweet. Kip Pardue stars as a young, uptight executive for a coffee company, sent by his boss (a clearly bemused James Brolin) to Thailand. On a buying trip to the Robusta-growing region of picturesque Krabi, the man makes contact with a fiery public-relations executive, played by Mamee Nakprisit. Her parents are the growers in the region. She hates the guy at first sight, but then falls in love with him.
None of it makes sense. Score: 2/5 = Barely watchable.
That Sounds Good / Rao Song Sam Khon / เรา สองสาม คน: Thai, Romance/ Comedy – A romance-comedy that follows the journey of two girls and one guy, and how they form a complicated love triangle on their journey through three countries: Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Directed by Leo Kittikorn, responsible for such items as Ahimsa: Stop to Run, and Saving Private Tootsie. In Thai with English subtitles.
Scheduled for July 15
Inception: Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard; Directed By: Christopher Nolan.
Rotten Tomatoes: Just what exactly does Christopher Nolan have in store for us with Inception?
The Dark Knight director has mostly kept his lips sealed on his movie's plot details, other than that it's a sci-fi thriller set in the architecture of the mind. What we do know is that Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a new kind of corporate spy – one who steals ideas from the minds of others by hooking them up to a machine in a drug-induced haze. Promotional material has been enigmatic: a droning teaser trailer featuring fist fights where the rules of gravity seem to keep changing, another trailer posing questions about the power of ideas, and a poster showing DiCaprio standing tall as water rushes into the city.
Marketing efforts based on mystery have paid off for Nolan so far in his career: he gets us curious, then follows through with some of the best movies of their respective years. In what is likely this summer’s most mysterious potential blockbuster, we'll all uncover what tricks Nolan has up his sleeve this time around on opening weekend.
Despicable Me (3D): US, Animation/ Family – 95 mins – 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.” Opens in the US on 9 July; few reviews so far.
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!
And looking forward
Jul 22: The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Teresa Palmer, and Alfred Molina; Directed By: Jon Turteltaub
Rotten Tomatoes: Disney has decided to completely reimagine the poem once again, this time in a live-action film starring Nicolas Cage as the sorcerer and Jay Baruchel as his titular apprentice.2010's Sorcerer’s Apprentice is set in contemporary New York, where a college kid (Baruchel) is recruited by a wizard named Balthazar (Cage) to undergo training for an epic battle between the forces of good and evil. In other words, you probably won’t see Baruchel chasing down any dancing brooms with an axe. What the film does promise, however, is a bit of Cage’s trademark loopiness, some grand action sequences (the movie’s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, after all), and plenty of jokes that take advantage of the "everyman in over his head" premise.
Jul 29: The Last Airbender: US, Action/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – 103 mins – Generally unfavorable reviews: 20/29 out of 100.
Oh, what a disappointment!! Here I was so looking forward to this, because A) It sounded like it could be a really interesting and cool fantasy film (It certainly has grand progenitors); and B) 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.
Alas, it seems not to be.
The film opened in the US last Friday, and the reviews have been some of the worst reviews in recent memory. My chief review site, Metacritic, says the 30 reviews it has counted have averaged out to a score of 20 – “Generally unfavorable reviews,” only one point away from 19 - “Overwhelming dislike.” It immediately went to their list of All-Time Low Scores.
With that kind of a reception, maybe it won’t even get here to Chiang Mai.
An absurdist masterpiece, in which a million things happen
but nothing takes place
I am really very fond of the story the film is based on: the 61-episode American animated television series on Nickelodeon, titled Avatar: The Last Airbender. The series, and this film based on it, are set in an Asian-influenced world of Chinese martial arts and element manipulation, drawing on aspects of traditional Asian (especially Chinese and Japanese) culture and Indian religions (Hinduism and Buddhism).
The story follows the adventures of Aang, a 12-year-old successor to a long line of Avatars, played by 12-year-old Noah Ringer. In the story, Aang puts his childhood ways aside to stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth, and Air nations.
The hugely successful Emmy Award-winning American television series is now being shown here in Thailand in four marathon sessions each week on TrueVisions TV. Or you can watch them all on the Nickelodeon website, with the very first one from 2005 here.
The film is written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and it doesn’t have the word “Avatar” in the title for obvious reasons. This is the first of what was to be a trilogy. At the last minute at the studio’s demand the film was shortened by 25 minutes or so, and hastily transformed into 3D by a post-production process of questionable quality.
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.
M. Night Shyamalan (according to IMDb pronounced “SHAH-ma-lawn”) broke onto the scene with the release of the paranormal thriller The Sixth Sense. He followed it up with Unbreakable -- which became a cult success on DVD -- and the alien-invasion hit Signs. However, his most recent films -- The Village, Lady in The Water, and The Happening -- were maligned by critics and audiences for poorly thought-out fantasy turns and needless twists.
The Last Airbender is a departure for Shyamalan: It's a family film, it's action-driven, and it's based on a pre-existing concept (in this case, a beloved Nickelodeon anime).
New York Times, A.O. Scott: muddy 3-D imagery and muddled storytelling. Mr. Shyamalan’s attempt to conjure a realm of myth and adventure out of special effects and long expository speeches might serve as a textbook chapter on How to Do It Wrong. The problem — the catastrophe — of The Last Airbender is in the execution. The long-winded explanations and clumsy performances are made worse by graceless effects and a last-minute 3-D conversion that wrecks whatever visual grace or beauty might have been there.
New York Times review comments:
I am amazed that Tony would call Shalamaymnan a "master" of anything. Critics continue to treat him with kid gloves, as if he has some big talent that somehow goes awry in each of his films. But this is what -- his eighth abject failure? Another failure on the most basic level of filmmaking?
Please, Hollywood, he's not an auteur; he's a technically proficient hack. Next time please give all that money to someone with a talent.
– Senor Pantelones, New Mexico
I see dead careers...Mr. Scott speaks of M. Night Shyamalan's "major gifts" as a filmmaker. In fact, Mr. Shyamalan has kept those gifts entirely to himself ever since his lone triumph with "The Sixth Sense." How much longer can this director get by on one successful movie that's now over a decade old?
– Stu Freeman, Brooklyn, N.Y.
M Nite Shamalamadingdong. It's M Night. He been on the top of "Banned From Filmmaking" list for years. I mean, seriously. Who in their right mind hires this guy? An entire career based on the extraordinary performance of a child. Shesh! When will Hollywood wise up and free us from this pain?
– Steven, California
What's offensive is that M. Night Shyamalan took an already-invented universe that was wonderfully imaginative and an already-written narrative that was touching and engaging (while albeit at times excessively slap-stick-ish) and ruined it with a laughable movie.
I'm a huge fan of the TV show and was prepared to be as forgiving as possible so I could watch it rendered in live-action. But this catastrophe was unforgivable.
The creators of the cartoon deserve compensation for deformation of character, and I want my 17 dollars back.
– DB Udell, New York, NY
Live Journal: It feels like Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, and Dev Patel are hanging out in front of the camera, telling you about all the cool stuff they saw while watching the television series.
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.
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 9, 8 pm: Le Roi danse / The King Is Dancing (2000) by Gérard Corbiau – 110 mins – France/ Germany/ Belgium Drama/History. English subtitles.
With Benoît Magimel, Boris Terral, Tchéky Karyo, Colette Emmanuelle, Cécile Bois.
Le Roi Danse is a lush portrayal of the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. We trace the evolution of Versailles from swamp to pleasure garden. The plot focuses on the relationship between the young king and his court composer Lully. Lully, played with mad intensity by Boris Terral, is an impassioned dancer, composer, and conductor who worships his sovereign as man, god, and muse. The film examines Louis XIV not as statesman but as consummate artist and obsessive visionary, who maintains his hold on his courtiers--allies and enemies alike--via the splendor of the world he has created at Versailles and his own self-affirming glory...
– Alliance Description
With its emphasis on intrigue, sexual diversity, music, and self-delusion, the film turns the world of baroque music into kinky melodrama, as we watch the bisexual Lully oscillate between debauched hedonism and his platonic love for the King. We observer Louis the XIVth's changing allegiances between Molière, the court dramatist, and Lully, the court composer, in a series of off-color vignettes with a vaguely homosexual subtext, complete with scenery-chewing, bodice-ripping drag-queen-on-a-rampage mad scenes. One reviewer: “Truly cinema by hairdressers for hairdressers.”
Lully's music is expressively performed by Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln. Ravishing to the eye and ear (the look is from Caravaggio), the performances bathe in the aura of The Sun King – arrogant, beautiful, glowing with life.
On Friday, July 16, 8 pm: Jeux d'enfants / Love Me If You Dare (2003) by Yann Samuell – 93 mins – France/ Belgium Comedy/ Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. Rated R in the US for language and some sexuality. Mixed or average reviews: 45 out of 100.
With Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard, Thibault Verhaeghe, Joséphine Lebas-Joly, Emmanuelle Grönvold, Gérard Watkins, Gilles Lellouche.
As adults, best friends Julien and Sophie continue the odd game they started as children -- a fearless competition to outdo one another with daring and outrageous stunts. While they often act out to relieve one another's pain, their game might be a way to avoid the fact that they are truly meant for one another...
– Alliance Description
A movie with wildly divergent reactions in those who see it. One view:
HollywoodJesus.com, Pop Culture From A Spiritual Point of View: When Yann Samuell began to write Love Me If You Dare, he had only thing in mind: a love story, because, he says, “I needed a love story.” What began quite simply, turned into an unforeseen creative adventure. “The entire story of Sophie and Julien came to me quite suddenly all in one afternoon, though it had been building up for years,” Samuell explains. “All I knew in the beginning is that I wanted to make a movie about love, games, and the search for a never-ending childhood – and that I wanted it to take place in a mythical setting where everything would be larger than life. I also had the idea of writing a romantic comedy with the structure of an ancient Greek tragedy, where the characters are prisoners of their destinies. So the story came to me all in that one day, but I then wrote 25 versions of the script over the next two years, adding more and more layers.”
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 are shown with English subtitles.
At Film Space Saturday, July 10, 7 pm: Lust, Caution / Se, jie / 色，戒 (2007) directed by Ang Lee – 157 mins, edited version 148 mins – US/ China/ Taiwan/ Hong Kong, Drama/ Romance/ Thriller/ War. – A Chinese espionage thriller film directed by Taiwanese American director Ang Lee, based on the short story of the same name published in 1979 by Chinese author Eileen Chang. The story is mostly set in Hong Kong in 1938 and in Shanghai in 1942, when it was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army and ruled by the puppet government led by Wang Jingwei. It depicts a group of Chinese university students from the Lingnan University who plot to assassinate a high-ranking special agent and recruiter of the puppet government using an attractive young woman to lure him into a trap. Rated NC-17 for some explicit sexuality; edited version rated R for strong sexual content and a scene of brutal violence. Generally favorable reviews: 61/61 out of 100.
Studio synopsis: The new film from Ang Lee, the Academy Award-winning director of "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." A startling erotic espionage thriller about the fate of an ordinary woman's heart, it is based on the short story by revered Chinese author Eileen Chang, and stars Asian cinema icon Tony Leung opposite screen newcomer Tang Wei. Shanghai, 1942. The World War II Japanese occupation of this Chinese city continues in force. Mrs. Mak, a woman of sophistication and means, walks into a café, places a call, and then sits and waits. She remembers…how her story began several years earlier, in 1938 China. She is not in fact Mrs. Mak, but shy Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei). With WWII underway, Wong has been left behind by her father, who has escaped to England. As a freshman at university, she meets fellow student Kuang Yu Min (Wang Leehom) Kuang has started a drama society to shore up patriotism. As the theater troupe's new leading lady, Wong realizes that she has found her calling, able to move and inspire audiences – and Kuang. He convenes a core group of students to carry out a radical and ambitious plan to assassinate a top Japanese collaborator, Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). Each student has a part to play; Wong will be Mrs. Mak, who will gain Yee's trust by befriending his wife (Joan Chen) and then draw the man into an affair. Wong transforms herself utterly inside and out, and the scenario proceeds as scripted – until an unexpectedly fatal twist spurs her to flee. Shanghai, 1941. With no end in sight for the occupation, Wong – having emigrated from Hong Kong – goes through the motions of her existence. Much to her surprise, Kuang re-enters her life. Now part of the organized resistance, he enlists her to again become Mrs. Mak in a revival of the plot to kill Yee, who as head of the collaborationist secret service has become even more a key part of the puppet government. As Wong reprises her earlier role, and is drawn ever closer to her dangerous prey, she finds her very identity being pushed to the limit.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Ang Lee's Lust, Caution is a tense, sensual, and beautifully-shot espionage film.
At Film Space Saturday, July 17, 7 pm: Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl / Tiān Yù / 天浴 (1998) written and directed by Joan Chen – 99 mins – Hong Kong/ US/ Taiwan, Drama. – Rated R in the US for strong sexual content.
Young teen girl Xiu Xiu is sent away to a remote corner of the Sichuan steppes for manual labor in 1975 (sending young people to the country side was a part of Cultural Revolution in China). A year later she's sent even further to the more remote spot with a Tibetan saddle tramp Lao Jin to learn horse herding. There Xiu Xiu falls in love with a man who promises to talk to an official and get her back home. He brings an apple which Xiu Xiu treasures and he takes her virginity. While waiting for him to return another man comes claiming to be his friend and brings another apple. After him another man comes and by that point she is reduced to a hooker. She becomes pregnant Lao Jin takes her to the civilization to get an abortion. Right after the surgery some guards have their way with her. Lao Jin tries to protect her but in vain.
Rotten Tomatoes: Between 1967 and 1976, nearly eight million Chinese youths were "sent down" for specialized training to the remotest corners of the country in order to rid them of any revolutionary thoughts. In 1975, a beautiful city girl of 15, Xiu Xiu, is taken from her family by the government and sent to the high steppes near Tibet to live with a horse trainer. This, the directorial debut from actress Joan Chen, was filmed surreptitiously in communist China and subsequently banned in that country.
All Movie: Actress Joan Chen makes her directorial debut with this bleak tale, adapted from the award-winning novella "Tian Yu" by Shanghai writer Yan Geling, about the loss of innocence during Mao Zedong's brutal Cultural Revolution. Precocious Wen Xiu (16-year-old Lu Lu), playfully called Xiu Xiu by her friends, finds herself one of millions of Chinese teenagers sent to the hinterlands to receive specialized training during the early 1970s. She is taken from her loving family in Chengdu to the Tibetan steppes, where she is apprenticed to Lao Jin (Lopsang), a solitary master horseman whose legendary status stems partly from his prowess on the range and partly from an embarrassing secret resulting from a battle injury. Though life is hard on the high grasslands, the sheer physical beauty of the landscape, coupled with Xiu Xiu's youthful vibrancy, reinvigorate the quiet horseman. He soon falls for the young girl, although, thanks to his wound, he will never be able to consummate his love. Meanwhile, Xiu Xiu longs to return to her family in Sichuan. Her growing desperation, coupled with her own naiveté, leave her vulnerable to the opportunistic scheming of a traveling peddler, who takes her virginity while promising her quick passage back home. Soon lecherous bureaucrats and others venture out to Xiu Xiu's remote yurt with the promise of free sex. The young girl willingly prostitutes herself, believing that it is the only way to see her beloved family again, while Lao Jin suffers silently, watching his love defile herself. Only after a medical emergency does Xiu Xiu realize how callously she has been used and cast aside. Joan Chen's dark work fits in a subgenre of Chinese art and cinema that explores the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, whose most famous examples include Tian Zhuangzhuang's Blue Kite (1993) and Zhang Yimou's To Live (1993). Though this film was screened in the 1998 Berlin Film Festival, it was banned in China for sexual and political content.