Surprise! – The American!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, October 14, 2010
… through Wednesday, October 20
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: The American. Red Eagle. The Owls of Ga'Hoole.
“A gripping film with the focus of a Japanese drama.”
This is Issue Number 50 of Volume 5 of these listings, almost the end of our fifth full year. Back issues are available on the blog.
EU Film Festival in Bangkok: Oct 21 to 31.
1st Doi Saket International Film Festival: Oct 23 to 30. Film list now available: http://dsiff.tumblr.com/films
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: Nov 5 to 14. On the grounds of the “140-years Old Lanna Ancient House” on Charoen Prathet Road, between the Chedi Hotel and the small Iron Bridge. Open air, free.
World Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 5 to 14.
Bangkok International Film Festival: Nov 19 to 29.
Luang Prabang Film Festival in Luang Prabang: Dec 4 to 11. Open air, free, 30 films. www.lpfilmfest.org
I’ve been asked to revise what I list as the opening date of the European Union Film Festival from Nov 4 to Nov 5, as Nov 5 is the first day of public screenings. The opening reception on Nov 4 is a private affair, by invitation only.
But before that we have the Doi Saket International Film Festival, held in various locations in the Chiang Mai-Doi Saket areas, October 23 to 30. A majority of the 110 films are short – only a few full length. All are free. Details on my blog, or on their website listed above.
Special! Do you think the red mask worn by Ananda Everingham in Red Eagle looks cool? Like to have one? Well, beginning today, at Major Cineplex, Airport Plaza, you can get one of these 129-baht masks free while supplies last, one mask for every two tickets purchased! Neat, eh?
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* The American: US, Drama/ Suspense/ Crime – 1 hr 45 mins – Wow! I don’t know what to say about this one! I’m taken aback that it showed up here – way too offbeat for Chiang Mai! First off, don’t go expecting a thriller. It’s just the opposite. And there’s no action, despite what you might be led to believe. This is a slow and moody introspection – a musing on what is happening in the mind of this assassin, played by the inimitable George Clooney. It’s a foreign art-house film rather than a Hollywood thriller. You will probably have to see it at least two times to understand what is going on. Till it begins to make sense. Rotten Tomatoes describes the film as “divisive,” which I thought was strange, but thinking about it, that’s right on. It divides an audience. Some will love it, some will find it boring. I find it slow but fascinating. I have a different objection to it entirely. I simply don’t approve of movies that glorify the mechanics of killing as this one does. I don’t think it’s good, for me or for society. It makes the act of killing glamorous and appealing, and a killer someone to emulate. It’s for that reason that I have always refused to watch the Godfather films. So that’s my personal objection.
As to the filmmaking, it’s near perfection, superbly directed by Anton Corbijn. The photography is gorgeous, the acting mesmerizing, and the puzzles intriguing. If you have ever enjoyed the Japanese warrior masterpieces, don’t miss this one.
In English and some Italian. Rated R in the US for violence, sexual content, and nudity; 18+ in Thailand. At Vista only, and with thanks to them for bringing such an interesting and non-mainstream film to Chiang Mai. Generally favorable reviews: 61/65 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: As beautifully shot as it is emotionally restrained, The American is an unusually divisive spy thriller -- and one that rests on an unusually subdued performance from George Clooney.
There are many examples of this divisiveness on the IMDb boards where people write in their reactions. Here is one pair of opposite reactions:
This movie is incredibly slow. Nothing happens, and when it does, you're mad because it was such a letdown. It’s all arty and Euro or whatever because it has a lot of pretty people looking brooding and dark. There is a ton of dumb crap that doesn't make sense.
What if there was an explanation for all of these unrealistic and odd happenings?
It almost felt to me that Mr. Butterfly was in Hell and doomed for eternity to repeat an existence where he is tormented by paranoia, loneliness, and regret and just when he thinks he's found love and hope, it's over. So it was in the beginning of the film, and so it was at the end.
To a certain extent films like this shouldn't be viewed as depicting a chronicle of events but more like bearing witness to someone's nightmare.
In fact I just saw the thread that asked if anyone else found any similarities to "In Bruges" which was a retelling of Dante's Inferno.
Roger Ebert: The American allows George Clooney to play a man as starkly defined as a samurai. His fatal flaw, as it must be for any samurai, is love. Other than that, the American is perfect: Sealed, impervious and expert, with a focus so narrow it is defined only by his skills and his master. Here is a gripping film with the focus of a Japanese drama, an impenetrable character to equal Alain Delon's in "Le Samourai," by Jean-Pierre Melville.
Clooney plays a character named Jack, or perhaps Edward. He is one of those people who can assemble mechanical parts by feel and instinct, so inborn is his skill. His job is creating specialized weapons for specialized murders. He works for Pavel. Actually, we might say he "serves" Pavel, because he accepts his commands without question, giving him a samurai's loyalty.
Pavel assigns him a job. It involves meeting a woman named Mathilde in Italy. They meet in a public place, where she carries a paper folded under her arm--the classic tell in spy movies. Their conversation begins with one word: "Range?" It involves only the specifications of the desired weapon. No discussion of purpose, cost, anything.
He thinks to find a room in a small Italian hilltop village, but it doesn't feel right. He finds another. We know from the film's shocking opening scene that people want to kill him. In the second village, he meets the fleshy local priest, Father Benedetto. Through him he meets the local mechanic, walks into his shop, and finds all the parts he needs to build a custom silencer.
In the village he also finds a whore, Clara, who works in a bordello we are surprised to find such a village can support. Jack or Edward lives alone, does push-ups, drinks coffee in cafes, assembles the weapon. And so on. His telephone conversations with Pavel are terse. He finds people beginning to follow him and try to kill him.
The entire drama of this film rests on two words, "Mr. Butterfly." We must be vigilant to realize that once, and only once, they are spoken by the wrong person. They cause the entire film and all of its relationships to rotate. I felt exaltation at this detail. It is so rare to see a film this carefully crafted, this patiently assembled like a weapon, that when the word comes it strikes like a clap of thunder. A lesser film would have underscored it with a shock chord, punctuated it with a sudden zoom, or cut to a shocked close up. The American is too cool to do that. Too Zen, if you will.
The director is a Dutchman named Anton Corbijn, known to me for Control (2007), the story of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, a suicide at 23. Corbin has otherwise made mostly music videos. Here he paints an idyllic Italian countryside as lyrical as his dialogue is taciturn. There is not a wrong shot. Every performance is tightly controlled. Clooney is in complete command of his effect. He sometimes seems to be chewing a very small piece of gum, or perhaps his tongue.
His weakness is love. Clara, the prostitute, should not be trusted. We sense he uses prostitutes because he made a mistake in the relationship that opens the film. In his business he cannot trust anybody. But perhaps Clara is different. Do not assume from what I've written that she isn't different. It is very possible. The film ends like a clockwork mechanism arriving at its final, clarifying tick.
Slate, Dana Stevens: If you're willing to let go of your Hollywood-bred expectations for a movie of this type-spectacular action set pieces, constant pulse-pounding music, a killing every 15 minutes-The American is a great pleasure to watch, an astringent antidote to the loud, frantic action movies that have been clogging our veins all summer.
* RED: US, Action/ Comedy – 1 hr 51 mins – When his idyllic life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive. “RED,” by the way, stands for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous.” Starring Bruce Willis, and as they say “Still Armed. Still Dangerous. Still Got It.” Also with Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, and Mary-Louise Parker. “Frank, Joe, Marvin, and Victoria used to be the CIA's top agents - but the secrets they know just made them the Agency's top targets. Now framed for assassination, they must use all of their collective cunning, experience and teamwork to stay one step ahead of their deadly pursuers and stay alive. To stop the operation, the team embarks on an impossible, cross-country mission to break into the top-secret CIA headquarters, where they will uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-up in government history.” (Summit Entertainment) Rated 18+ in Thailand. Early reviews: Generally favorable: 64/70 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: Based on the cult D.C. Comics graphic novels by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, RED is an explosive action-comedy starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren.
* Reign of Assassins / Jianyu / 劍雨: China, Action, Drama – 1 hr 57 mins – A 2010 martial arts film directed by Su Chao-Pin and co-directed by John Woo. Set in ancient China during the Ming Dynasty, Zeng Jing (Michelle Yeoh) is a skilled assassin who finds herself in possession of a mystical Buddhist monk's remains. She begins a quest to return the remains to its rightful resting place, and thus places herself in mortal danger because a team of assassins is in a deadly pursuit to possess the remains, which hold an ancient power-wielding secret. Assassins had its premier in September at the 67th annual Venice Film Festival where it met with general acclaim from the critics. Shown in a Thai-dubbed version only, and only at Airport Plaza.
* You’re In the (Thai) Navy Now / E Hed Sod Pa Ded Suek / อีเห็ดสดเผด็จศึก: Thai, Comedy – Outrageous Thai comedy routines involving a bride who happens to have a penis, and is shown in the trailers raping her bridegroom [see picture] by riding roughshod over his sensibilities with her inflamed member. Just the usual Thai hijinks. The studio describes the plot thus: “Captain Muengman who suffers from losing his virginity to his ladyboy bride is assigned to do a challenging mission. When the unusual ladyboy terrorists are rising, Captain Muengman is chosen to defeat them. To complete the mission Captain Muengman and his team have to disguise themselves as one of the ladyboys in order to trick Golden Flower, the ladyboy leader of the terrorists who has painful memories about guys.” That should clear it all up. It’s noisy trash, to be blunt. [That’s my English title – don’t go looking for it! Don’t think there is an English title. I’m just having fun with it.] Rated 18+ in Thailand.
* Yai Sung Ma Yai / ยายสั่งมาใหญ่: Thai, Comedy – Kuad and Kai are siblings who are apart from one another since their childhood. Kuad is brought up in a slum and supports his life by playing gambling whereas Kai is with his grandmother. When an accident causes grandmother to be in coma and need more money for the cure, Kai begins searching for his brother Kuad. Things turn upside down when the siblings reunite to take their chance in a gambling house to get the money for grandmother. The usual Thai comedic nonsense. At Airport Plaza only.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (3D): US/ Australia, Animation/ Adventure/ Fantasy – 1 hr 30 mins – The animation is superb! I’ve been a fan of animation since I was a kid visiting the Walt Disney Studios near my boyhood home, and I think Walt would be thrilled by the animation here: the textures of the feathers, the motions of the owls, and particularly the expressiveness of the faces and the life in the eyes. I think he would also be pleased by the terror in the film - true terror! - which matches some of the frightening scenes of the witch in Snow White, and the death of Bambi’s mother. There are truly some nightmare-inducing scenes. And the scenes of flight are giddy with exuberance and excitement.
This feature has gotten wide-ranging applause and accolades from many quarters for its cutting-edge animation, and inventively superb use of 3D. It’s about a young barn owl who is kidnapped by the owls of St. Aggie's, ostensibly an orphanage, but actually where owlets are brainwashed into becoming soldiers. Our hero escapes to the island of Ga'Hoole, to help its noble owls fight the army being created by the wicked rulers of St. Aggie's. Shown only at Airport Plaza, and in both a 3D and a 2D version. Note that the 2D version is Thai-dubbed only, with no English subtitles. Also, please take note: the 3D is real 3D, and is a true step forward in the art. If you at all appreciate animation, don’t miss it! Mixed or average reviews: 52/55 out of 100.
The story is good, but mammothly complicated and confusing, based on a series of young-adult books by Cambridge author Kathryn Lasky which would seem to be required reading for even minimal understanding. This may be the beginning of a series, but they should have gone slower with the plot elements in this first one, in my opinion. It is a remarkably detailed world the owls inhabit, full of its own culture and ways of doing things, and it takes a bit of getting use to. It doesn’t really portray life as a particularly pleasant pastime for the most part; pretty ugly, in fact. But it all throws the value of life into high relief as a result.
Note: As if for comparison with the superb 3D of the Owls, there is a short before the main feature – a cartoon before the cartoon, as it were. And this cartoon, a Warner Bros. Roadrunner cartoon, is also in 3D – the worst 3D you will hopefully ever see! It’s truly dreadful, and I think dangerous to the eyes, liable to put them permanently out of whack! It’s excruciating, causing wild twitching of the eyes! There are long stretches off and on where the background is actually in 3D in front of the foreground! How bad is that? Your eyes and brain don’t know how to decipher that. Do yourself a favor and close your eyes during this short.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Legend of the Guardians' dark tone and dazzling visuals are to be admired, even if they're ultimately let down by a story that never lives up to its full potential.
The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Farber: This picture sometimes rivals Avatar in its spectacular landscapes and thrilling flying sequences, but of course it won't come anywhere near those megagrosses, and it's too scary to be wholeheartedly embraced by children.
Helen Mirren voices an owl
USA Today, Scott Bowles: Beautifully drawn and devoid of his typical body count, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole finds a wholly unexpected sweet spot for director Zack Snyder: the family film.
Of course, it's still a Snyder movie, which means plenty of stylized action. But for the director, whose bloody ballads include 300 and Watchmen, Guardians is a lesson in restraint. A father of six, Snyder is well versed in comic books and kids. He knows that today's youth like their share of menace and dry wit. Snyder supplies both.
Based on the first three books of a 15-volume series by Kathryn Lasky, Guardians tells the story of a young owl caught in a battle between the noble Guardian owls and the wretched "Pure Ones," owls that seek a Lord of the Rings-style world of darkness.
The film opens with our hero Soren (Jim Sturgess) in a battle of flying strength with his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten). Pure Ones kidnap the owlets and whisk them to be brainwashed into soldiers. Soren — it's pronounced much like "Sauron," as in Lord of the Rings — escapes, leading to a showdown.
Snyder populates his film with top-tier actors, including Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, and Hugo Weaving. The pedigree makes all the difference: their voices shine, especially when they enter battle.
And there are battles aplenty. The violence includes a few Snyder musts: slow-motion fights, whisker-close calls with a blade, overdone narration.
But this is 3-D the way it's supposed to be done, painstakingly detailed and bright enough to see the story. It's not going to make Avatar-type money, but even James Cameron might crack a smile — and raise an eyebrow at the very similar rendition of a holy tree. There's even a little Star Wars thrown in, as a seasoned soldier tells Soren to "trust your gizzard."
Still, it's not enough to upend Guardians. As a professed comic-book geek, Snyder works well in animation. The spot-on herky-jerky bird twitch is there, yet you can still find traces of the actors in the characters. This 3-D seduces you into its world instead of clobbering your senses.
Though the books were wildly popular, this could be a hard sell to parents unfamiliar with the story or intimidated by the trailers. But the film is surprisingly deft and entertains at both the adult and juvenile levels. If something in Guardians catches your eye, trust your gizzard.
Red Eagle / In See Dang / อินทรีแดง: Thai, Action/ Thriller – 2 hrs 15 mins – Ananda Everingham is really terrific as the red-masked crusader in this re-launch of an action franchise from the 1950s and '60s that starred the legendary leading man Mitr Chaibancha. Set in 2016, the story shows Bangkok as a city threatened by crime, corruption, and a deadly nuclear project that is about to be built. In the midst of the dismay, a mysterious hero called Red Eagle steps forward to eliminate the evildoers. But he has to face his dangerous enemy Dark Devil, the elite killer hired to hunt him. Rated 18+ in Thailand.
It is a wonderment! There are flashes of director Wisit Sasanatieng’s trademark wild use of color and his antic imagination, but subservient here to the demands of a comic book masked crusader much along the lines of Batman. In fact his icon, the spread eagle, looks much like the spread bat-wings of Batman’s symbol. The film, really, is a sort of Thai Dark Knight. I have to say that the film is horrifically bloody, too much so for my taste. One particular moment got me to squirming, when we see the details of Ananda stitching up his own huge gashes with a large hook. And, not only are there way too many beheadings, but they are wild and extended beheading sprees, and then they go on to play around with the severed heads for awhile. Sort of a riff. On beheadings. Uggch.
I appreciated all the talk and the railing against dirty politics and dirty morals-less politicians. And it’s despicable portraits of how people with influence misuse their trust of power. And the scenes of protest, and of extinguishing those protests. Heavy, provocative stuff, and relevant to life as it is lived here today. I would have wished that this aspect were raised to another notch, however. The dramatic side of the story was not really filmed with the requisite gravitas, to my way of thinking – needed to be much more powerful.
For the whole, Wisit was mostly having fun and I found his enjoyment infectious. There’s a lot of imagination at work, in a wild and impossible comic book style.
A Nutshell Review, Stefan S.: This is possibly writer-director Wisit Sasanatieng's most ambitious project yet, in terms of its blunt critique on corrupt politics and politicians, wide ranging action sequences that shocked and awed, and a sprawling narrative that couldn't be contained in a single film. This of course paves way for subsequent stories to be told by filmmakers – not necessarily himself: he had announced that he's quitting commercial filmmaking for more indie fare - but I just can't see how anyone can take his place. ...
Although written and developed for many years by Wisit Sasanatieng, one cannot escape from drawing parallels between the political arena in the film, and that in real life. Set in the year 2013 with the Liberal Party in power, Prime Minister Direk got elected on an anti-nuclear platform, but is more comfortable in negating his promises made to the electorate and supporters of an NGO led by Yasana, his ex-fiancée who has a hand in rescuing Insee Dang at one point, and sets up an unrealized love triangle. At every opportunity the film demonstrates or comments how politicians promise the world but deliver nothing or go back on promises, where corrupt rich men pull their connections and networks against those who are on the lower rungs of society. It doesn't necessarily have to be a critique of politics or how a police force seems to be at the beck and call of those in power in Red Eagle's country of origin, but could be applicable anywhere in the world, since it's a flaw in human nature on how power corrupts.
For fans of the 60s Mitr Chaibancha version of the film, Red Eagle will almost definitely be a must-watch to see how one of the most inventive filmmakers in Thailand today works in a treatment to reboot the film franchise. Wisit Sasanatieng followers will be in for a surprise at how he tackles a commercial action film based on a masked crusader, which seems to be in complete departure from his earlier works. Not without flaws, but I'm still going to put this on my recommended list, and personally I'm hoping this film does well enough to warrant a follow up.
Interview with Ananda Everingham in A Nutshell Review: I'll be the first one to admit that this is the toughest film I've ever made. The most taxing, the most demanding.
Stefan: Is it because of the action sequences?
Ananda: It was everything. It was such an ambitious film, and with Wisit at the helm, if you know him, he's a perfectionist. He storyboarded it and he wants the exact shot. A lot of these shots, on the storyboard they look great, like the guy does a double back flip, but to actually shoot that kind of thing, it's harder than it looks. ... So to get all of his vision that he storyboarded onto film wasn't easy... I mean if there's a sequel to this I really have to consider it before taking on the role. It was on the verge of being painful.
Stefan: You were injured in a serious motorcycle accident...
Ananda: About two years ago.
Stefan: ... which was just weeks before film was due to start. Did that affect or change any planned action sequence that you were supposed to carry out?
Ananda: Well, it made the film crew very cautious when we were doing the stunts and all that, but no it didn't change much. The Red Eagle doesn't have powers, he can't do things like ten backflips or stuff like that. I mean he can do two backflips, but that's about the extent of the stunts. Most of it's straightforward, martial arts, but after the accident I actually told Wisit that I'd be OK if he wanted to move on shooting and cast somebody else in my role. And he came up to Chiang Mai to see me and had a chat, and spoke to the doctors, and to find out how I would recover, and how my mobility would be for the next six months or so. So he decided he wanted to take a chance and waited for six months for me to heal. And I still have injuries that affect me now but it's lucky enough for me, with therapy and all that, nothing serious had happened. We got through it pretty OK. It wasn't the easiest film to make...
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps: US, Drama – 2 hrs 13 mins – This film makes a return visit, this time at Vista, and there are good reasons to see it. There are some really good turns by a number of people: Michael Douglas, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, Josh Brolin. Some of these scenes are well-done with a lot of intensity in the execution. But without much point or purpose, for me. Oliver Stone seems to visit many of the events of the financial crisis without explaining what's really going on. I think if you were very familiar with the events, you could bring your already-formed feelings to bear on the scenes you witness, but without being so primed, it really makes no sense. Everyone is very intense and angry and confrontational about something, but what about is not explained. They might give the excuse that the issues and the manipulations are way too complicated to explain to the populace in a popular movie, but I don't think that's true. Hard work, and requires thought, but very possible. Mixed or average reviews: 59/60 out of 100. At Vista only.
Rotten Tomatoes: It's more entertaining than many sequels, but with Oliver Stone directing, a terrific cast, and a timely storyline that picks up where the original left off, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps should be better.
Saturday Killer / Mue Puen Dao Phra Sao / มือปืน ดาว พระ เสาร์: Thai, Action/ Comedy – 1 hr 50 mins – The film revolves around a troublesome gunman who kills for money to cure his impotence, and a mysterious girl he has a crush on but whose heart he can never seem to win. This is the middle film in a trilogy of crime films, Friday Killer, Saturday Killer, and Sunday Killer, all with well-known comics paired up with popular leading ladies. Saturday Killer is being released first because Friday Killer was deemed too downbeat to start off with. The trilogy marks a return to the hitman genre for Yuthlert Sippapak, a prolific genre-hopping filmmaker who made his debut with 2000's comedy-action-drama Killer Tattoo. 18+ in Thailand. At Vista only.
Grown Ups: US, Comedy – 1 hr 42 mins – Is this really necessary? At both cinemas? I’m going to start a new film rating: 25-. “25 minus.” Means that only people under 25 will be allowed in. Because for adults, life is too short to waste on crap like this!
This is a comedy, or so it wishes, starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade, about five friends and former teammates who reunite years later to honor the passing of their childhood basketball coach. I can’t imagine why anyone would deliberately want to see this picture. It’s pretty ugly, full of pretty ugly Americans, living ugly lives, tearing each other down in typically American ways. Enough, one could say, to re-emphasize why one would prefer to live in Thailand. Looks sort of like home movies of the people involved. I find no real humor in it at all. But, it’s up to you. Apparently, there are some people who actually like the humor of Adam Sandler. Generally unfavorable reviews: 30/33 out of 100.
News of the World, Robbie Collin: It is, literally, no laughing matter.
Film4, Simon Jablonski: A puerile extended in-joke between Adam Sandler and friends.
Scheduled for October 21
My Best Bodyguard / แฟนใหม่: Thai, Action/ Thriller – Starring the Princess Ubolratana as a dedicated reporter fighting a villainous pharmacy organization that secretly runs an experiment involving a deadly virus which can kill a whole city. Shahkrit Yamnarm is a gunman who's protecting her.
Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (3D): US/ Australia, Action/ Comedy/ Family – 1 hr 22 mins – The age-old battle between cats and dogs, in live-action with animated mouths that spout talk that’s meant to be cute, all in 3D. Generally unfavorable reviews: 30/36 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Dull and unfunny, this inexplicable sequel offers little more than the spectacle of digitally rendered talking animals with celebrity voices.
... and looking forward
Nov 18: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I: UK/ US, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery – Voldemort's power is growing stronger. He now has control over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione decide to finish Dumbledore's work and find the rest of the Horcruxes to defeat the Dark Lord. But little hope remains for the Trio, and the rest of the Wizarding World, so everything they do must go as planned. The first of the two-part conclusion to the series; Part II due in July of 2011 – both directed by David Yates, who has directed the last two Harry Potter films. Both of the concluding movies (Part I and Part II) will be shown completely in 3D and in IMAX 3D.
Nov 25: Let Me In: UK/ US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Romance/ Thriller – A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian. Chloë Grace Moretz (one of the nice things about the movie Kick-Ass; she played Hit Girl) stars as Abby, a mysterious 12-year-old who moves next door to Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a social outcast who is viciously bullied at school. In his loneliness, Owen forms a profound bond with his new neighbor, but he can't help noticing that Abby is decidedly weird! I’m really looking forward to this.
The original – Let the Right One In – is a terrific 2008 award-winning Swedish film, and will be playing at Film Space on Saturday evening, October 30. I love the original, and they’re saying the remake is terrific too! For sure, it’s got an exciting and intriguing trailer, which you can see here. Rated R in the US for strong bloody horror violence, language, and a brief sexual situation. Generally favorable reviews: 78/79 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Similar to the original in all the right ways -- but with enough changes to stand on its own -- Let Me In is the rare Hollywood remake that doesn't add insult to inspiration.
Nov 25: The Social Network: US, Drama/ History – By David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac, Panic Room). A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook. Studio synopsis: “On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history... but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.”
The buzz was that this was the film to beat at next year’s Academy Awards . . . until it opened and didn’t get the response expected. Now, the field has opened up. But this is still right up there among the most significant films of the year. Mark Zuckerberg is not quite sure he likes the way he’s portrayed, except that he knows notoriety can be changed into power and money, and he’s okay with that. A misfit nerd gets 500 million – folks, that’s half a billion – people to his website, and makes an awful lot of money.
Jan 6, 2011: Hereafter: US, Thriller – A supernatural thriller centered on three people -- a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy -- who are touched by death in different ways. Matt Damon, directed by Clint Eastwood.
* = Coming soon
AF = Alliance Française; FS = Film Space; GF = Gay Film Series
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, October 15, 8 pm: L'armée des ombres / Army of Shadows (1969) written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville – 2 hrs 30 mins – France/ Italy, Drama/ War. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 86 out of 100.
With Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani.
In 1942 during World War II, a few men and women risked their lives to liberate France. The “Shadows Army” is an evocation of an important period of the “Resistance” such as J.P. Melville experienced himself.
– Alliance description
Well-known for his influential crime films (Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge), director Jean-Pierre Melville explores the lives of French Resistance fighters in his moody World War II masterpiece, Army of Shadows. Restrained and controlled, the film follows Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) and other members of the underground as they carry out clandestine missions against Nazi occupiers. And while there are some exciting scenes (air drops, escape attempts), the film largely avoids action-film histrionics. Its tone is a subdued one and tension results from its quiet moments, interrupted by brief, jarring violence. This is appropriate, given the film's subject matter. Silence is the guiding principle of espionage and the film's look--bruised and penumbral--reflects the tenuous position of its characters, who live divided, imperiled existences. There is no glib heroism in Army of Shadows; there are only people living through untenable situations, acting as is necessary and sacrificing, perhaps, everything.
With Alain Delon, Michel Lonsdale, Jeanne Moreau, Juliette Bert, Massimo Girotti, Suzanne Flon.
In occupied France during the Second World War, an antique collector of Alsatian descent, Mr. Klein, is mistakenly taken for a Jew and mercilessly tracked down by the Gestapo…
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: Alain Delon stars as the eponymous protagonist in Joseph Losey's first French film, Mr. Klein. Living a posh life amid the chaos and turmoil of Nazi-occupied Paris, Mr. Klein makes his living buying art at cutthroat rates from desperate Jews fleeing the country. When a Jewish newspaper is mistakenly addressed to him, Klein learns of the existence of another, Jewish Mr. Klein. Klein reports the irregularity to the police, only to find himself further implicated in intrigue and danger. Embarking on a desperate search for his namesake, Klein visits his apartment and intercepts a secret invitation, bringing him into contact with the other Klein's world -- and lover (played by Jeanne Moreau). Sinking into a paranoid fervor, Klein becomes a detective, searching for any evidence of the other Klein's whereabouts. As the Nazis close in and his double continues to elude him, the very name Mr. Klein, echoing sinisterly throughout the film, becomes a talisman of fear and panicked guilt. The secret societies and poisoned atmosphere of Vichy France come to life as Mr. Klein's Kafkaesque nightmare leads him unwittingly into a startled appreciation of the plight of the persecuted. Losey's restrained direction matched with Delon's emotive presence combine to create a powerful psychological and moral thriller.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
October is “The Month of Undead Returns” 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, October 16, 7 pm: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) written and directed by Don Coscarelli – 1 hr 32 mins – US, Comedy/ Fantasy/ Mystery – In English. Elvis and JFK, both alive and in nursing homes, fight for the souls of their fellow residents as they battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy. Rated R in the US for language, some sexual content, and brief violent images. Mixed or average reviews: 56/60 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: Elvis Presley is still alive, now in his late sixties, but confined to a rest home in Texas. Here, he recounts how he escaped fame with the help of an... Elvis Presley is still alive, now in his late sixties, but confined to a rest home in Texas. Here, he recounts how he escaped fame with the help of an impersonator--now left to wonder what could have been, all the while trying to battle the soul-sucking mummy, Bubba Ho-Tep, who enters the rest home at night and consumes souls.
Film Threat, Pete Vonder Haar: I loved this film; from the opening “Ben-Hur” nod to the hieroglyph subtitles, it's simultaneously hilarious and poignant, with great performances.
Web Wombat, Joseph Peter Savitsk: You don’t see Elvis and JFK teaming up for a movie every day, and you most definitely never see the twosome taking on a soul-stealing Mummy.
Such is the bizarre template for Bubba Ho-Tep, a horror film that’s thicker on gut-busting laughs than it is on corn syrup, but is still welcomingly original.
The film postulates that the real Elvis (played in the film by B-fave Bruce Campbell) didn't die in 1977; it was an impersonator he switched identities with.
The faux Elvis overdosed, while the real Elvis ultimately wound up in a squalid retirement home. There, a pale shadow of his former self, he convalesces and looks back on his life with regret.
Enter a new friend. He (the dependable Ossie Davis) – the silliness ensues - claims to be JFK, and seems to think that the government has stolen his brain and "dyed" him black. He also claims that an ancient mummy has awakened, and is sneaking into the home and stealing the souls of the residents.
Elvis and JFK decide to team up to stop the mummy, but they’re hampered by the fact that they're not in the best physical shape.
Bruce Campbell does a spectacular job portraying an elderly Elvis that sees the mummy as his chance for redemption. Ossie Davis is equally impressive as JFK, and lends a sense of decorum to the film.
Don Corscarelli is an experienced director, and that comes through in his skilful handling of the film. The only grievance is that the mummy is seen too little - with his cowboy hat and boots he really is a sight to behold.
Okay, so horror and gore fans might have been hoping for a little more slice and dice, but audiences looking for an extremely funny, poignant film with excellent acting and a killer twist will be in hammy heaven.
BBC, Jamie Russell: A fiendishly funny comedy horror.
Cinema Crazed, Felix Vasquez Jr.: An original horror movie worthy of your attention; original horror movies are hard to come by these days...
At Film Space Saturday, October 23, 7 pm: Holiday – no showing. Chulalongkorn Day (Rama V Day).
At the Gay Film Series
Films with a gay theme shown every two weeks, with very limited seating, in a private home. Reservations a must to attend films in this series. To reserve: send email to: Chiangmai.firstname.lastname@example.org, mark in subject area “reserve” with the number in your party. For example, “Re: reserve 2.” A confirmation will be sent. To be placed on the mailing list for advance notice of movies just put in the subject line: “mailing list.”
Sunday, October 24, 7 pm: Before the Fall (2004) written and directed by Dennis Gansel – 1 hr 57 mins – Germany, Drama/ Sport/ War – In 1942, Friedrich Weimer's boxing skills get him an appointment to a National Political Academy (NaPolA) - high schools that produce Nazi elite. Over his father's objections, Friedrich enrolls, seeing this as his ticket out of factory life to university and a good salary. During his year in seventh column (fifth form), this innocence is altered as Friedrich encounters hazing, cruelty, death, and the Nazi code. His friendship with Albrecht, the ascetic son of the area's governor, is central to this education; a night in the forest hunting for escaped Russian POWs brings things to a head. Generally favorable reviews: 66/66 out of 100. Reservations a must.
“There will be a discussion about the film after, with tea, coffee, or soft drinks. Please bring munchies such as cookies, cake, etc. to share. There will only be 8 people and you must reserve. This is on a first come first serve basis.”
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Despite a degree of predictability and clichés, the high production values and sincere performances by the leads elevate this coming-of-age story set in Nazi Germany.
Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas: Commands attention from its very first frame and never lets up right through the fade-out. It is a splendid example of classic screen storytelling with no false steps, and Gansel's understated approach pays off with resounding emotional effect and meaning.
IMDB Viewer: Top notch production
The subject matter is not unfamiliar - a decent German (in this case a talented young boxer) fights to retain his humanity in the face of Nazi pressure to lose it as a bad habit. At heavy cost to himself he refuses. And thinking back to the beginning of the movie we should not be surprised: to accept the invitation to attend an elite academy he must defy his father. To maintain his self-respect later on he must defy the surrogate fathers he has acquired at the academy.
This is a superbly produced, directed film. The young actors' performances are believable and affecting. And for people who care about such things, Max Riemelt as Friedrich, the young, virile, gorgeous protagonist is a very easy guy to look at.