Thursday, March 25, 2010

Whats On starting March 25

Dog-days come to Chiang Mai!


Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, March 25, 2010


… through Wednesday, March 24


by Thomas Ohlson


Best Bets:  Up in the Air.  Alice in Wonderland. Green Zone.  How To Train Your Dragon.  Hachi (if you at all love dogs!)

Hachi 08

Now scheduled

The 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok: Nov 5 to 14, 2010.

EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: sometime in November also, exact date uncertain.

Note about this blog: Due to my ongoing health problems, the movie times will not be updated for the time being. Times after the Thursday times listed here you will have to get from the cinema websites, or by phone. Or by going to the cinemas and looking. 


Richard Gere and the young Hachi


This is Issue Number 21 of Volume 5 of these listings.


Now playing in Chiang Mai    * = new this week


* Hachi: A Dog's Tale / Hachiko: A Dog's Story: US/ UK, Drama/ Family – 93 mins – This family drama reunites actor Richard Gere and director Lasse Halström (What's Eating Gilbert Grape). Born out of real-life events, it tells the tale of Hachi, a faithful Akita dog who would walk his owner to and from the train station every day. But when the man unexpectedly dies, Hachi continues his daily routine of waiting for his master at the train station for the next nine years, becoming a fixture in the community. Mixed or average reviews: 56 out of 100. But if you’re a dog lover, you will go wild over it, I guarantee!


This is a remake of the 1987 Japanese film Hachiko Monogatari, transferred to Rhode Island. The original film of the Akita dog, which in the 1920s and 1930s waited for his master at Shibuya station for nearly a decade after his death, starred Tatsuya Nakadai, and earned more than 4 billion yen at theaters across Japan.


Hachiko Statue in Shibuya is a famous statue of a dog that possessed legendary loyalty to his owner. Hachiko belonged to Professor Ueno Saburo; Hachi always went to see the master off and wait for his return at the Shibuya station everyday even in terrible weather. After the Professor's death in 1925 Hachi continued to wait at the station for his master's return.


Hachiko was given away after his master's death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again at his old home. Eventually, Hachiko apparently realized that Professor Ueno no longer lived at the house. So he went to look for his master at the train station where he had accompanied him so many times before. Each day, Hachiko waited for Professor Ueno to return. And each day he did not see his friend among the commuters at the station. The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachiko attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachiko and Professor Ueno together each day. They brought Hachiko treats and food to nourish him during his wait. This continued for 10 years, with Hachiko appearing only in the evening time, precisely when the train was due at the station. In April 1934, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya Station and Hachiko himself was present at its unveiling.Hachiko died on March 8, 1935. He was found on a street in Shibuya. Virtualtourist


Actor Richard was touched by the story of Hachiko and for some time has been pushing for an American movie adaptation of the story, eventually even going on to co-produce the film with his own money.


Here’s a little secret: In the film, Hachi as a puppy is played by a Shiba puppy. Apparently, Shibas were used for the puppy scenes because they were considerably easier to train. And maybe cuter. Three Akitas play the adult Hachiko.

Hachi 07The original story of Hachiko is not completely without controversy. There are some who claim that the story was deliberately popularized in fascist pre-war Japan as a means of inculcating loyalty to the emperor and to the statethe idea being that Hachiko’s utter faithfulness up to the bitter end was a model that the government wanted the people to follow in supporting the state. Of course, Gere’s film does not come close to this. One would hardly expect Gere, a strong Tibet supporter, to allow the story to be about loyalty to oppressive governments.


When Helen Keller visited Japan in the 1930’s, she was so inspired by the story of Hachiko that she got an Akita-breed dog for herself.


In April 1934, a bronze statue the likeness of Hachiko was erected at Shibuya, and Hachiko himself was present at its unveiling. The statue was recycled for the war effort during World War II. In 1948 The Society for Recreating the Hachiko Statue commissioned Takeshi Ando, son of the original artist who had since died, to make a second statue. The new statue, which was erected in August 1948, still stands and is an extremely popular meeting spot.


A similar statue stands in Hachiko’s hometown, in front of Ōdate Station. In 2004, a new statue of Hachiko was erected on the original stone pedestal from Shibuya in front of the Akita Dog Museum in Odate.


It rather amused me that at the end of the film there is a sort of warning for people who might find the film an inducement to get their own Akita, that cautioned us that Akitas can be difficult dogs:


“Although beloved by many as a family pet, Akitas are recommended only for dedicated and experienced dog owners.”


It seems they’re more independent than dogs should be. In fact, they’re more like cats in that regard. Everything has to be on their terms. And insurance companies list them as “high risk for biting and aggression.” Akitas are actually one of the most primitive dogs on the planet, and are still very closely linked to the wolf.


* How To Train Your Dragon:   US, Animation – 98 minds – From Dreamworks, the studio that brought you Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda. Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, this animated action comedy tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view. Generally favorable reviews: 71/76 out of 100. Shown in 3D at Major Cineplex, Airport Plaza; Vista is showing a 2D Thai-dubbed version.    


Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Kid stuff? Maybe. But How to Train Your Dragon, from the book by Cressida Cowell, works enough miracles of 3-D animation to charm your socks off.


Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine: Dreamworks may have topped itself with How to Train Your Dragon, an exciting, fun, and sensationally entertaining movie for everyone, a thrilling action adventure fantasy that should slay the competition and grab great word of mouth.


* Bang Rajan 2: Thai, Action/ War – 135 mins – The sequel to Bang Rajan, it continues the patriotic legend of a tiny farming village that fought Burmese invaders despite insurmountable odds and successfully held off a foreign invasion until the capital at Ayutthaya could put up a proper defense. It looks as though this episode will be as ferociously violent and bloody as the original, with even more buffaloes and mustaches.


Nak Prok / Shadow of the Naga /นาคปรก: Thai, Action/ Drama – 105 mins – A long-shelved monks-with-guns crime drama, it's the story of three thieves who bury their loot on the grounds of a Buddhist monastery, and when they come back later to dig it up, they find a temple has been built on the spot. So they ordain as Buddhist monks while they figure out how to get their treasure.The film actually premiered in 2008 in Toronto, but its strong depictions of the thieves robed as Buddhist monks have kept it out of Thai theaters until now, when the new rating system allows more controversial scenes and images, if properly rated. 18+ in Thailand.


Buddhist groups calls on govt to ban Nak Prok movie:Two Buddhist organizations Wednesday called on the government to ban the Nak Prok movie for fear that it would damage image of Buddhism. Adisak Wannasin, president of the Buddhism Relations Association, said his association and the Network of Buddhist Organizations want the Nak Prok movie to be banned.

It is a movie about three robbers who disguise as Buddhist monks to try to get the money they hid inside a temple compound but a temple hall was later built on the ground they buried the money.Adisak said the movie was sensitive and could damage Buddhism's image.

-- The Nation


Up in the Air: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 109 mins – Led by charismatic performances by its three leads, director/ writer Jason Reitman delivers a smart blend of humor and emotion with just enough edge to be nominated as best picture of the year, best directing, and the best adapted screenplay. George Clooney flies around the US firing people that their bosses are too timid to do themselves, was up for best actor, and Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick each nominated for best supporting actress. Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 83/81 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.


Newsweek, David Ansen: There hasn't been a studio movie as unapologetically adult, sophisticated, and nuanced as Up in the Air in some time.


Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan: Up in the Air makes it look easy. Not just in its casual and apparently effortless excellence, but in its ability to blend entertainment and insight, comedy and poignancy, even drama and reality, things that are difficult by themselves but a whole lot harder in combination. This film does all that and never seems to break a sweat.


When in Rome: US, Comedy/ Romance – 91 mins – Rom-com clichés, but a pair of young, attractive leads. Kristen Bell plays a young, ambitious New Yorker who is completely unlucky in love. However, on a whirlwind trip to Rome, she impulsively steals some coins from a reputed fountain of love, and is then aggressively pursued by a band of suitors. With Josh Duhamel. Generally unfavorable reviews: 25/33 out of 100.


Boxoffice Magazine, Pete Hammond: Entertaining, full of laughs, and, as far as chick flicks go, is a sweet, romantic trip worth taking for audiences so inclined.


ReelViews, James Berardinelli: It is neither deep nor intelligent, but it's not intended to be either. The saving grace of the otherwise generic product is that Bell's vivacity and Duhamel's rakish charm allow the viewer to root for them.


Green Zone: France/ US/ Spain/ UK, Action/ Drama/ Thriller/ War 115 mins – Courageous director Paul Greengrass takes on the whole Bush Administration (and the Blair administration too I guess) as he reminds us all, very forcefully, that there never were "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq and the governments knew it, and the whole fiction was created as an excuse to go to war so Bush could finish the war that he thought his father had not finished in a satisfactory American way. The repercussions of that tragic decision will last for a hundred years. Starring Matt Damon as a US Army officer who hunts for the elusive WMD and finds only an elaborate cover-up. Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson. Rated R in the US for violence and language. Generally favorable reviews: 61/60 out of 100.

 Arizona Republic, Bill Goodykoontz: Sizes up the war in Iraq pretty nicely!


In ways it feels like a documentary about the invasion of Iraq, undertaken under the pretense of capturing weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, that Saddam Hussein was supposedly manufacturing there. But instead it's Green Zone, director Paul Greengrass' film about how things went so wrong in so many ways. Working from Brian Helgeland's script ("inspired by" Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City"), Greengrass uses his trademark handheld camera style (and that's a hand with a serious shake) to create what may be a new genre: the historical non-stop action drama. ...


It's certainly interesting to see what's been reported on the manipulation of information played out as drama, and the acting is uniformly good. To pretend that the film doesn't make a political statement is silly. Of course it does. It wouldn't be effective at all if it didn't.


In fact, it's easy to begin to work up a good deal of righteous bile and anger watching Green Zone, as we are again reminded of what led us to war.


Alice in Wonderland (2D):US, Adventure/ Family/ FantasyThis is not your usual Alice, and it would be more truthful to call it something like Alice Returns to Wonderland, because it’s a new story, a riff on the original, with Alice all grown up as a late teens girl about to be proposed to. She returns to Wonderland to find the strange land even more frightening than before, in the hands of a cruel despot who is making life miserable for everybody. Alice is charged with ending the evil and bringing things back to what passes for normal in Wonderland. With Tim Burton, plus this particular Alice (Misa Wasikowska), plus Johnny Depp in another of his way-out-there tragicomic performances – it all adds up to an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind movie experience. Mixed or average reviews: 53/57 out of 100. Note: not in 3D this week; it moved out of the 3D cinema to make room for How to Train Your Dragon.


The Little Comedian / Ban Chan ... Talok Wai Gon (Por Son Wai) / บ้าน ฉัน...ตลก ไว้ ก่อน (พ่อ สอน ไว้): Thai, Family/ Comedy Directed by Witthaya Thongyooyong, one of the directors on the famed Fan Chan. The Little Comedian is about a family comedy troupe which harbors a black sheep a son who isn't funny and is constantly upstaged by his filthy-mouthed younger sister. Comedian Jaturong Mokjok plays the father of the clan.

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm


The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon."A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.


At Alliance Française on Friday, March 26, 8 pm: Mr. Klein (1976) by Joseph Losey 123 mins France/ Italy, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller/ War. English subtitles.

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 Alliance Française on Friday, April 2, 8 pm:  L'armée des ombres / Army of Shadows (1969) written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville – 150 mins – France/ Italy, Drama/ War. English subtitles.


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., James Travers:In this film, director Jean-Pierre Melville draws on his own war-time experiences to paint a vivid and realistic picture of life in the French Resistance during the Second World War. The film has more of the feel of a documentary than a traditional action movie. As a result, the central characters have great depth and their heroism lies not in fool-hardy acts of bravado but in their dogged determination (a) to oppose the Nazi occupiers and (b) just simply to survive.

Melville’s style fits the film well. Better known for his gangster films, the same sense of a clandestine underworld is entirely appropriate for depicting the activities of the French Resistance. However, unlike in Melville’s other films, there is no sense of moral ambiguity. The Nazis are clearly the villains of the piece; the Resistance are the heroes. Even when the Resistance members are having to dispose of their own kind, they are shown in a positive light, clearly tormented by the action they have to take.

The central characters are well drawn and would stand up well, even if they were not portrayed by some of France’s great acting talents. Lino Ventura dominates the film as Gerbier, with a performance that is alternately severe and warm, reflecting possibly a character who is naturally warm but who has become cold and severe through his Resistance work. With the incomparable Simone Signoret and Paul Merisse also prominent in his line-up, Melville reinforces a winning hand, and is amply rewarded. This is a film about individuals, about their personal quandaries and agonies during a period of crises. With such a strong cast, Melville could hardly have failed.

By avoiding spectacle and concentrating on small, individual acts of heroism, Melville’s portrayal of life in the French Resistance is perhaps one of the most accurate depicted in film to date. Melville’s attention to detail is often quite staggering – whether it be in the emotional responses of characters to their predicament, or in the faultless photography and set design. The whole film has a feeling of genuineness that is pretty rare in films of this genre, and the film is all the better for that.

Film Space schedule

At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm


March isThe Month of Disastrous Lifeat Film Space.  April, The Month of Feel Out of Place.


Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave at least 20 baht. Well worth supporting.


At Film Space Saturday, March 27, 7 pm:  Transistor Love Story / Monrak Transistor / มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์ (1999) by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang – 90mins – Thai, Comedy/ Drama/ Musical/ Romance. Phaen is a suburban young man with a great love for music. He never misses a chance to show off his voice at temple fairs in his village. It is at one of the fairs that he meets and falls in love with Sadao. On their wedding day, Phaen gives Sadao a transistor radio that the new family loves, and it also gives Phaen many a daydream of becoming a famous singer himself. Soon, Sadao is pregnant and it is hard for Phaen to leave home, but he has to enter military service. While there, he enters a singing contest, and winds up first runner-up. So he decides to leave the service and heads for Bangkok to follow his dream. He spends two years in a band that never goes anywhere, and eventually is forced to work in a sugarcane plantation. But a fight causes him to lose his job. As things go from bad to worse, he recalls his transistor radio with fondness, for it evokes in his mind much better and more peaceful times, when dreams were still possible.



IMDb viewer: The acting, cinematography, and sound would be enough to make any movie stand out, but it's the story that really puts Monrak Transistor at the top of the pile. It takes the characters (and the viewer) in quite unexpected directions, creating a unique and original movie. Nothing outlandish or bizarre happens - in fact the whole movie feels very realistic. That's what makes it unexpected - things don't turn out like they do in the movies. This film has more mood changes than the life story of Elizabeth Taylor. It is almost as if each chapter of the protagonist’s life is played out in a different genre – musical, comedy, crime, prison, romance, and melodrama. It can take a bit of time to adjust to these swiftly changing moods, but the ultimate picture that emerges is one of how life so rarely follows the dreams of your youth and how sad and painful it can become. In a very loose and much less heroic manner, the film is a poor man’s tale of Ulysses. A young man leaves his pregnant wife for the army and then has a series of misadventures before finally finding his way back to her. All the way it seems as if the Gods are laughing at this fellow and playing games with him.


Phaen is a simple country boy who has a talent for singing and he is in a small band that plays fairs and events. One evening he sees the lovely Sadao in the crowd and the two begin a sweet courtship that leads eventually to marriage. This entire section is candy-flossed romance – it feels as if the world is just one big glazed apple. Then though he is drafted into the army and things begin going wrong (even with an amusing musical number thrown in). He enters a talent contest and unfortunately wins – without thinking too deeply he deserts the army to make it big in a singing career so that he can give Sadao everything she deserves. Instead though he finds himself cleaning floors in Bangkok for a few years – while Sadao pines for him back in the country. The film begins taking on a fatalistic sadness in which bad luck just seems to have its eyes set on Phaen and we witness this genial singer’s life slowly fall apart. All he wants to do is get back to Sadao, but instead he seems to get further and further away from her.

monrak 01It’s an odd film to watch – at times you feel impatient with Phaen – other times you really sympathize with him and eventually you feel broken up inside at how life has treated this sweet couple with such whimsy. But by the end, its simplicity also says something about the endurance of the human spirit and true love. Reacting to this film while watching it is difficult - but it is the type of the film that has stayed with me ever since and one that I think about often - Phaen and Sadao were lovers; Oh, how they could love; Swore to be true to each other; Just as true as the stars above; He was her man; But he done her wrong.


Online Film Critics Society: Like most Thai films, this has a terrific visual sense, with lush colors, almost unbearably charming actors, and gorgeous settings. It also combines a lively, sunny story with much more grim shadings, as well as veins of deeply felt emotion and gleefully wicked wit. The combination of these last two elements is what makes this film thoroughly engaging, undercutting the creeping schmaltz with knowing worldliness. And there are a few serious undertones as well, including jabs at the music business, homelessness and most significantly Western cultural imperialism (the title comes reflects how Sadaw listens to pop music on her transistor radio, and thus stays connected to Pan in his absence). That said, the film does have a contrived fairy tale plot--an epic love story in which we basically know exactly what will happen from the beginning, even though we're not prepared for all of the various turns in the tale.


April is The Month of Feel Out of Place at Film Space.  


At Film Space Saturday, April 3, 7 pm:  Into the Wild (2007) by Sean Penn – 148 mins – US, Adventure/ Biography/ Drama. Starring: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Catherine Keener. Freshly graduated from college and with a promising future ahead, 22-year-old Christopher McCandless chose instead to walk out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people. Was Christopher McCandless a heroic adventurer or a naïve idealist, a rebellious 1990s Thoreau or another lost American son, a fearless risk-taker, or a tragic figure who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature?Rated R in the US for language and some nudity. Generally favorable reviews: 73/73 out of 100.


Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: With his sturdy cast and confident direction, Sean Penn has turned a complex work of non-fiction like Into the Wild into an accessible and poignant character study.


Jon Krakauer's bestselling nonfiction book about the life of Chris McCandless is finally brought to the big screen in Into the Wild. Directed by Sean Penn, the film opens in 1992, when Chris (Emile Hirsh) is a promising college graduate. Shortly after graduation, Chris gives his life savings to charity, burns all of his identification, and begins hitchhiking across America, his ultimate goal being Alaska. Citing passages from his heroes, Thoreau and Jack London, he is determined to escape society and get back to nature. He blows from town to town like a tumbleweed, hopping trains, camping with aging hippies (Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker), working briefly with a farmer (Vince Vaughan), and befriending a widowed leather worker (Hal Holbrook). He revels in his newfound freedom, but meanwhile, his parents (Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) have no idea where he is, and are sick with worry. While their relationship with Chris was already troubled, they are nonetheless devastated by his disappearance. Chris's sister, Carine (Jane Malone), narrates much of the film, offering her reflections on the effect Chris's absence has on his family. Chris finally makes it to Alaska, where he hikes out to a remote campsite and discovers an abandoned bus. He manages to survive there for a few months living off the land, but he eventually runs out of supplies and becomes trapped, leading to his tragic end. Into the Wild bounces around chronologically, jumping back and forth from the start of Chris's journey to his final few weeks living aboard the bus. This works to great effect as the storylines begin to merge and the tension and dread mount, and we see the fate that will eventually befall Chris. Penn obviously had great admiration for his subject, and while the film appears to differ from the book in places, it nevertheless paints a heartbreaking portrait of this young man's short but fascinating life.