See the toys and enjoy life a little!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, August 12, 2010
… through Wednesday, August 18
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Toy Story 3. Salt.
This is Issue Number 41 of Volume 5 of these listings.
World Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 5 to 14.
Bangkok International Film Festival: Nov 19 to 29.
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: Sometime November.
Special showing: (see details later on)
“Payap Reel” at Payap University – a community project which screens films/documentaries on regional issues, social awareness, and international topics. Next Thursday, August 19, 5:00-7:00 pm: Heaven's Meadow - The Small Wonders of Baan Gerda (2005 / 90 mins / Thailand) – a moving story here in Chiang Mai about AIDS orphans who were supposed to die, but didn’t. Screens at Payap University, Mae Khao Campus, Pentecost Bulding, Room 419.
Today starts four days of weekend/ holiday times at Airport Plaza; mall opens at 10 am, celebrating the Queen’s Birthday/ Mothers Day today.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* 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, the boy who owns the toys, 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! In 3D at Airport Plaza, 2D and Thai-dubbed only at Vista. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 92/88 out of 100. (Bold scores are from Metacritic / light scores from Rotten Tomatoes.)
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.
* The Holy Man 3 / Luang Pee Teng 3 / หลวงพี่เท่ง 3: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 1 hr 55 mins – The continuing misadventures of a young, self-confident, and stubborn monk (once a rock star) who, in trying to escape from a world of confusion, only finds more confusion. In Thai only at Vista, English subtitles at Airport Plaza.
* First Love / Little Thing Called Love / Sing Lek Lek / สิ่งเล็กๆ: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 2 hrs – A young and ordinary high school girl has a big crush on a heartthrob senior at school, played by for-real heartthrob Mario Maurer. To make him see that she exists in his world, the girl tries to improve her physical looks and tries to become the star at school, without getting the results she wants. In Thai only at Vista, English subtitles at Airport Plaza.
Salt: US, Action/ Thriller – 1 hr 40 mins – I found this engrossing, quite entertaining, and skillfully done. Just fun. And Angelina Jolie is magnetic, a true wonder, a star in the real sense of the word. I have one demure: The film requires us to root for the success of an assassin setting about to kill the Russian president, and then the US president. I don’t like to be forced to cheer on people like that, and actions like that, even in a fiction. Makes me feel very uncomfortable. And, I can’t swear to it, but it looks like there were some cuts made of sexy scenes by the Thai censors; maybe not, but there are a couple of shots in the trailer that are not in the film I saw. That sort of thing is not supposed to happen under the new rating system. Generally favorable reviews: 65/61 out of 100.
Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (According to IMDb, that name is pronounced "chew-it-tell edge-oh-for"). Chiwetel Ejiofor received the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance as Othello on the London stage; Ewan McGregor was Iago. I would have loved to have seen that! Salt is 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?"
Roger Ebert: The movie has been directed by Phillip Noyce, an Australian whose work ranges from Tom Clancy thrillers to the great and angry drama Rabbit-Proof Fence. Here he performs as a master craftsman. The movie has a great many chase scenes, and faithful readers will know that these, in general, have lost their novelty for me. But a good chase scene is a good chase scene. It demands some sense of spatial coherence, no matter how impossible; some continuity of movement, no matter how devised by stuntwork and effects, and genuine interest for the audience.
It's in that area that Angelina Jolie really delivers. She brings the conviction to her role that such a movie requires. She throws herself into it with animal energy. Somehow, improbably, she doesn't come off as a superhero (although her immunity suggests one), but as a brave and determined fighter. How does she look? She looks beautiful by default, and there's a scene in an office where she looks back over her shoulder to talk with Schreiber and you think, oh, my. But neither Jolie nor Noyce overplays her beauty, and she gets gritty and bloody and desperate, and we get involved.
Although Salt finds an ingenious way to overcome history and resurrect the Russians as movie villains, neither that nor any other elements of the plot demand analysis. It's all a hook to hang a thriller on. It's exhilarating to see a genre picture done really well.
Step Up 3-D / Step Up 3: US, Drama/ Music/ Romance – 1 hr 47 mins – A tight-knit group of street dancers team up with NYU freshmen to find themselves pitted against the world's best breakdancers in a high-stakes dance showdown that will change their lives forever. Third installment of the Step Up series, popular with fans of dance and pop music films. Despite the title, it’s not yet shown in 3D here, now in 2D and only at Airport Plaza. Mixed or average reviews: 45/50 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: It may not contain believable acting or a memorable plot, but Step Up 3-D delivers solid choreography and stunning visuals.
The Last Airbender: US, Action/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – 1 hr 43 mins – I‘ve now seen the 3D version, and yes it is darker than the 2D version, not as crisp, the colors a bit muddy. So you’re better off seeing the 2D version now playing. If, that is, you plan to see it at all. And despite the terrible reviews it has received, it seems to be doing surprisingly well. In 2D only now, and the Vista version is Thai-dubbed. Generally unfavorable reviews: 20/28 out of 100. The Metacritic score of 20 is only one point away from their category “Overwhelming dislike.”
“It’s difficult, but
I’m trying to keep this disaster in perspective.”
I’m disappointed with the film, but I love the source material, the 61-episode American animated television series on Nickelodeon, titled Avatar: The Last Airbender. My recommendation still is to buy this truly fine animated series, and skip the movie.
Rotten Tomatoes: 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.
San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle: After spending the past decade making bad movies, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has branched out in The Last Airbender. He has made a really bad movie. To be specific, he has made a dull, boring, poorly acted, limply written and thoroughly unappealing fantasy, featuring bland characters locked in a struggle of no interest. ... The movie is in 3-D, and it's the worst use of 3-D in the modern era.
Roger Ebert: The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here.
Reel Views, James Berardinelli: How could a movie crafted with such obvious and far-reaching incompetence be allowed to open with the label of a "major summer release? "
Orlando Sentinel Roger Moore: This colossal folly, the fiasco of the summer of 2010 — gives us all a ringside seat at the sight of Mr. “I See Dead People’s” career gurgling down the drain.
io9: It's an absurdist masterpiece, in which a million things happen but nothing takes place.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Williams: Shyamalan's latest creation is a toxic potion that will put children to sleep and kill his career.
Boonchu 10 / บุญชู 10: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – Number 8 in the homespun teen comedy series of a country boy’s adventures in Bangkok! (They skipped numbers 3 and 4 as an advertising gimmick.) The amusing and romantic story of Boonchu and his son Boonchoke continues when Boonchu and his friends journey into a forest to find Boonchoke who is now studying herbs. In Thai only at Vista, with English subtitles at Airport Plaza.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice: US, Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy – 1 hr 50 mins – Completely disposable. If you have nothing else to do and want to waste a couple of hours without thinking too much, this is one way to do it. Especially if you like the persona of Nicolas Cage. Mixed or average reviews: 46/50 out of 100. At Vista only and in a Thai-dubbed version.
It is said that the idea was mostly Nicolas Cage's, who wanted to make a feature length movie based upon the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment in Walt Disney’s Fantasia. Cage plays the sorcerer and Jay Baruchel plays an average college student who becomes the apprentice – the character played by Mickey Mouse. I am way put off by the physical mannerisms and irritating, whiney, unpleasant voice of Jay Baruchel. I don’t know how he got to be such a star.
More serious is the terrible editing. Here we have a superb example of action editing where you cannot tell what’s happening or who is doing what to whom. Just impressions, no dramatic meaning. Montage sequence of car chases and wrecks. Rapid-fire flashes of images. The list I just started of those criminally responsible for making a movie unwatchable by the editing alone consists at the moment of only this film’s editor, William Goldenberg, for this superb example of bad action editing.
Rotten Tomatoes: The Sorcerer's Apprentice provides plenty of wizards and sorcery. What it lacks, say critics, is originality and inspiration. The pundits say Apprentice is passable stuff, but overall it's a bland enterprise with an overabundance of CGI effects.
Time, Richard Corliss: Well, it's better than The Last Airbender. ... I have another question, posed out of befuddlement, not hostility: Why is Jay Baruchel in show business? ... There are plenty of other young actors who'd give life, zest, and watchability to the roles Baruchel gets. Is there an industry rule that he has to be constantly employed?
Scheduled for August 19
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 to me 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 these questions keep you awake nights, this movie is for you. I found the two leads disgusting human beings and their relationship with each other a 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: 66/66 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.
And looking forward
Aug 26: Piranha 3D: US, Action/ Horror/ Thriller – I have friends who are really looking forward to this! (You know who you are!) Yes, it’s got piranha, and they’re prehistoric! And they’re deadly, and they want to get you, all in 3D! What more need I say? With Richard Dreyfus, Christopher Lloyd, and Elizabeth Shue.
At Payap Reel on Thursdays at 5 pm – Room 419, Pentecost Building.
The Film Series “Payap Reel” is a community project which screens films/documentaries on regional issues, social awareness, and international topics. The film series is shown in Room 419, Pentecost Building (formerly the Graduate and International Studies Building), at Payap University, Mae Khao Campus (behind Carrefour). Viewings are free and open to the public. This month's film screening will be followed by discussion with the film’s director, Detlev F. Neufert.
At Payap University Thursday, August 19, 5 – 7 pm: Heaven's Meadow - The Small Wonders of Baan Gerda (2005) by Detlev F. Neufert – 1 hr 30 mins – Documentary.
How can a film about AIDS orphans uplift your spirit? There will be 24 millions AIDS orphans by 2010. Their life expectancy will be less then 12 years. Baan Gerda, a special purpose village in Thailand, provides a unique alternative that shows what true care and real love can achieve. A moving story about AIDS orphans who were supposed to die, this film places HIV/AIDS firmly within the wheel of life.
Baan Gerda is a little village in Thailand. Here Karl Morsbach, the former manager of a German company, and his wife Tassanee started their project in 2002 to give AIDS orphans a dignified place to pass away. The children were barred from their communities and were marked as “death.” But the unexpected happened. The children survived.
The Morsbachs have a very clear motto: Only a happy child has a chance for healing. They found loving new parents and built the village Baan Gerda. These new parents are also infected with HIV, and with the new function their lives have a sense of purpose. Since 2002 nine houses have been built, a little hospital, the main house with a big kitchen, a playground, and a guest house. A loving environment was created where the AIDS orphans and adults find shelter and a cordial community.
Detlev F. Neufert studied German Language, Philosophy, Theology and Drama and lives and works in Berlin, Bangkok, and now Chiang Mai. He started his first documentaries for German television and made short films about pop stars, including Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa and Patti Smith. His feature "Take Away the Night" (1982) was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in Un Certain Regard. His films include Family Life (short, 1979) and Heaven's Meadow - The Small Wonders of Baan Gerda (2005).
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.
Friday, August 13, 8 pm: La Trahison / The Betrayal (2006) by Philippe Faucon – 1 hr 20 mins – France/ Belgium, Drama. In French and Arabic with English subtitles.
With Vincent Martinez, Cyril Troley, Ahmed Berrhama.
Algeria, 1960. War has been raging for six years and it will take two more years before Algeria – in French hands since 1830 – gains independence following a referendum decided by General De Gaulle. Lieutenant Roque, a Frenchman, is in command of an isolated post of thirty soldiers in the south-eastern region of Algeria. All the men have been drafted; among them are four young Muslims – French of North African origin as was said back then. Caporal Taïeb acts an interpreter for Roque. The post’s mission is to assure the security and control of a neighboring village and its environs, and the displaced, unemployed men and women, teenagers, and children living there. Everyone is tired of this interminable war and eager to lead normal lives again. Roque sometimes manages to gain people’s trust, even if many are no doubt secretly partisans of the FLN (National Liberation Front) and Algerian independence. Neither war nor peace will stop Roque from seeing his mission through. Then, all of a sudden, everything goes awry…
– Alliance Description
Set amidst the turmoil of the war of independence, Philippe Faucon’s film focuses on a group of “harkis,” Algerian soldiers working with the French to defeat the efforts of the FLN freedom fighters. Led by a French lieutenant (Martinez) who is fatigued by the long, seemingly irresolvable conflict with the Algerian people, the Arab soldiers face their own moral crises as they comply with aggressive acts of interrogation and torture. The scope of the struggle is made more tangible by Faucon, who balances scenes of the lieutenant with the conflicted Arab soldiers.
Variety: Understated, tautly constructed war story "The Betrayal" takes a look back to the 1960 Algerian war of independence. Multivalent title refers to divided loyalties that threaten to tear apart a French army unit made up of mutually suspicious European colonizers and Algerian Arabs. Smart script co-written by Moroccan-born French helmer Philippe Faucon ("Samia") pulls off the difficult task of doing justice to opposing positions while withholding enough information to maintain suspense.
Patrolling a dusty rural region of Algeria, a squadron of the French army is led by Lieutenant Roque (Vincent Martinez), a decent officer and good leader worn out by homesickness and the long-running conflict with the FLN (the Algerian rebels fighting for independence). Nominally, everyone in Roque's unit is French, including the men of European extraction born in North Africa and those of Arabic origin who've been promised the same rights as French citizens should the rebellion be quelled.
In practice, however, the four Arabs in the unit, led by Taieb (Ahmed Berrhama), who act as liaisons between the army and the hostile locals, are doubtful President De Gaulle's government will honor its promises. They are treated with racism within the unit, and suspicion by their European colleagues. The locals accuse them of being traitors to their country.
The army destroys a village suspected of collaborating with the FLN and moves the residents to a refugee camp. Torture of Algerian suspects is an everyday occurrence at headquarters.
A notebook falls into the army's hands that seems to prove Taieb and the other Arab soldiers in Roque's unit are double agents, planning to slaughter their fellow soldiers. It could be an FLN trick to sow suspicion and undermine morale -- or it could be the real deal. If Roque arrests innocent men, he will proving the French Army is racist; but if they really are traitors and he doesn't act in time, blood will be shed.
A less ambitious film might have stuck to watching events unfold from Roque's point of view alone, but here plenty of scenes show the Algerian soldiers talking among themselves, their dialogue in Arabic never quite proving or disproving the accusations against them. The film cleverly plays with language to draw out suspense, not just to create mystery for its own sake but to allow the full complexity of the issues to sink in.
The performances deftly sustain the air of ambiguity, and there's a soft-spoken intelligence. Even the battle scenes are quiet, the gunshots sounding like tinny firecrackers -- the result, perhaps of a low budget. Widescreen lensing by Laurent Fenart makes fine use of the desert landscapes, although night shots are perhaps a little more murky than need be, while subtitles giving the time and place of every scene seem unnecessary.
On Friday, August 20, 8 pm: Sarraounia (1986) by Med Hondo – 2 hrs – Burkina Faso/ Mauritania/ France, Drama/ History/ War. In Dioula, Peul, and French with English subtitles.
With Ai Keita, Jean Roger Milo, Feodor Atkine.
On January 2 1899, starting from the French Soudan, a French column under the commandment of the captains Voulet and Chanoine is send against the black Sultan Rabah in what is now the Cameroun. Those captains and their African mercenary troops destroy and kill everything they find on their path. The French authorities try to stop them sending orders and a second troop but the captains even kill the emissaries who are reaching them. Sarraounia, Queen of the Aznas, has heard about the exactions. Clever in war tactics and in witchcraft, she decides to resist and stop these mad men...
– Alliance Description
Sarraounia was co-produced by financiers in both France and the country of Burkina Faso (formerly known as The Upper Volta). Mixing equal parts fact and fiction, this historical epic traces the rise of 19th-century Queen Sarraounia of Azna. Sarraounia holds her place in a traditionally patriarchal society by sheer physical strength – and, according to legend, she is also an accomplished sorceress. In 1899, two xenophobic French officers go on a mission to thwart the uprising of Sultan Rabah in the Cameroon. Ignoring orders from the French government, these renegade officers kill anyone who crosses their path. But then they come face to face with Queen Sarraounia.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
August is “The Month of Telltale” 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, August 14, 7 pm: Big Fish (2003) directed by Tim Burton – 2 hrs 5 mins – US, Adventure/ Drama/ Fantasy – In English. Directed by Tim Burton, starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Robert Guillaume, Marion Cotillard, Loudon Wainwright III, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito, and Helena Bonham Carter. Mixed or average reviews: 57/64 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: A story about a son trying to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths his father told him about himself.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: A charming father-and-son tale filled with typical Tim Burton flourishes.
Chicago Tribune, Michael Wilmington: A word of warning. Big Fish is so strange and so literary that audiences seeking conventional fare may get impatient with it. But it always takes effort to catch the big ones. This one is worth it.
Film Threat, Rick Kisonak: An achievement of this magnitude is a stunning and extremely pleasant surprise.
ReelViews, James Berardinelli: Big Fish is a clever, smart fantasy that targets the child inside every adult, without insulting the intelligence of either.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Carrie Rickey: Burton's film is an American version of the Odyssey.
Roger Ebert: Because Burton is the director, Big Fish of course is a great-looking film, with a fantastical visual style that could be called Felliniesque if Burton had not by now earned the right to the adjective Burtonesque.
Film Threat Rick Kisonak: If you’re a fan of Tim Burton, you’ll enjoy Big Fish, it’s got all the weird and wonderful elements you’ve come to expect and enjoy about the eccentric directors films and more. If you’re not a fan of Burton, you’re going to like it even more. It takes those oddities and twists that many don’t usually go for if they’re not a big fan of the director and interweaves them into a tale that’s so enriching, so heartwarming, so funny, so touching and so breathtaking, you’ll wonder why the king of wackiness didn’t branch out sooner. The film, adapted by John August from the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace, blends the off the wall with the wondrously touching so well, that it’s possible Burton was born to helm it. After this, everyone will be somewhat of a fan of the man.
At Film Space Saturday, August 21, 7 pm: Stranger Than Fiction (2006) directed by Marc Forster – 1 hrs 53 mins – US, Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance – In English. Starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah. Generally favorable reviews: 67/68 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: A fun, whimsical tale about an office drone trying to save his life from his narrator.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: An IRS auditor has his life interrupted by the sound of a personal narrator who knows his every thought, feeling, and action, including when and where he will die.
culturevulture.net, Les Wright: When it flies, it soars. But it develops leaden feet as it spins over into a convoluted, overly long wind down. This is an intelligent, engaging film that gets it right, for the most part, before ultimately capitulating to the demands of Hollywood.
cinemaobsession.com, Jeff Otto: Ferrell breaks the mold in this pleasantly surprising, terrific film.