Cowboys vs. Ninjas, Christina vs. Cher!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, January 13, 2011
… through Wednesday, January 19
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: The Tourist. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.
Cowboys vs. Ninjas – “A surreal folly directed by Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini.”
This is Issue Number 11 of Volume 6 of these listings, in our sixth year!
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Burlesque: US, Drama/ Musical/ Romance – 2 hrs – A small-town girl ventures to Los Angeles and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer. With Christina Aguilera, Cher, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Alan Cumming, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci – a very strong cast. It seems to be an attempt at a hybrid between Cabaret and Chicago, with mixed results. Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality. Mixed or average reviews: 48/48 out of 100. (The scores, on a basis of 100, are from two web sources. The first, in bold, is from Metacritic.com, and the other is from RottenTomatoes.com. Movies released in the US only.) At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes, Consensus: Campy and clichéd, Burlesque wastes its talented cast (including a better-than-expected Christina Aguilera) on a movie that wavers uncertainly between "bad" and "so bad it's good."
The Onion A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin: Burlesque is a terrible film that will delight nearly everyone who sees it, whether they're 12-year-old Christina Aguilera fans or bad-movie buffs angling for a guilty pleasure.
* Gulliver’s Travels (3D): US, Adventure/ Comedy/ Fantasy – 1 hr 25 mins – Travel writer Lemuel Gulliver takes an assignment in Bermuda, but ends up on the island of Lilliput, where he towers over its tiny citizens. This is live action, not animated, only remotely related to the famous book. Generally unfavorable reviews: 33/39 out of 100.
I’m nearly at a loss for words on this one. Profoundly unfunny and obnoxious, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to see it or enjoy any part of it if they did. I try to inform viewers of what a movie is like and what it’s about so they can decide whether it’s something they want to see. So I’ll try: Maybe if you like Jack Black’s style of comedy, you might find this somewhat amusing. Sorry, that’s the best I can do.
Rotten Tomatoes, Consensus: Though Jack Black is back doing what he does best, Gulliver's Travels largely fails to do any justice to its source material, relying instead on juvenile humor and special effects.
The Onion A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin: With deadening predictability, the filmmakers have reduced a definitive satire about the flaws and foibles of human nature into family-friendly sub-Disney pabulum about an affable slacker who finally musters up the courage to ask a pretty girl at work for a date.
Christian Science Monitor, Peter Rainer: A movie of such stupendous uninspiration that, watching it, I didn't know whether to be affronted or hornswoggled. Movies this monumentally dreadful, after all, don't come along every day.
Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern: The 3-D is cheesy (2.2-D at best) the gags are gross (Gulliver urinates on an 18th-century palace to extinguish a fire), and the production abandons all hope of coherence when the hero fights a climactic battle with a giant robot out of Transformers.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Steven Rea: Murderously unfunny.
* The Warrior’s Way: New Zealand, Action/ Fantasy/ Western – 1 hr 40 mins – Geoffrey Rush in a visually-stunning modern martial arts western starring Korean actor Dong-gun Jang who plays an Asian warrior assassin forced to hide in a small town in the American Badlands. With Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston, directed by Sngmoo Lee. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence. Mixed or average reviews: 45/46 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes, Consensus: Perfectly, thoroughly divisive, The Warrior's Way will either be delightful or unbearable, depending on your tolerance for surreal, shamelessly over the top collisions of eastern and western clichés.
Variety, Joe Leydon: A visually inspired multi-genre amalgamation, a borderline-surreal folly that suggests a martial-arts action-adventure co-directed by Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini.
* The Joneses: US, Comedy/ Drama – 1 hr 36 mins – Surprising, inventive, and crisply, merrily written and directed by Derrick Borte. A brisk, captivating entertainment. Think Ozzie and Harriet on speed. Rated R in the US for language, some sexual content, teen drinking, and drug use. Mixed or average reviews: 55/62 out of 100. At Vista only.
Rotten Tomatoes, Consensus: It doesn't pursue its subversive premise as far as it should, but The Joneses benefits from its timely satire of consumer culture -- as well as a pair of strong performances from David Duchovny and Demi Moore.
Observer, Rex Reed: The red carpet of greed, materialism and self-promotion has never been tread with so much fiber-punishing wear and tear as by the camera-ready Jones family, in a fresh, scintillating and downright terrific new movie called—what else?—The Joneses. Like one of those obnoxious infomercials designed to max out your credit card faster than you can switch channels, this vicious but clever and highly entertaining indictment of American consumerism masquerading as the American dream will convince you the right people can sell you anything that ticks, flashes, rings, pops, purrs, hums or sparkles—anything except happiness.
Roger Ebert: Everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses. They're good-looking, friendly, popular, affluent, and they always seem ahead of the curve when it comes to what they drive, wear, play and consume. They never boast. They never have to. People just plain want to be like them. And you had better stop reading now, because it's impossible to say more without a spoiler.
OK, for those still in the room, I wonder how many will really be surprised by the big plot “reveal.” From the first moments of dialogue, there seems to be something off about the Joneses. Nothing is made explicit for a time, but they don't seem to relate to one another as family members. There's something they understand and we don't.
The fact is, they ... [that’s enough; see the movie]
The Tourist: US/ France, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – 1 hr 33 mins – Johnny Depp stars as an American tourist whose playful dalliance with a stranger leads to a web of intrigue, romance, and danger. With Angelina Jolie, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others – a very fine film!). This one is delicious, sensual, and light in a way that mainstream entertainments almost never are these days. It’s one of those movies that “will leave some viewers scratching their heads, wondering why there isn’t more action, more snazzy editing, more obvious crackle between its stars.” But those who like it will love it: It’s a kind of espionage caper that’s visually sensuous, made with tender attention to detail, and an elegant, understated sense of humor. In style and construction, I think it’s quite superb. But it’s received generally unfavorable reviews: 37/41 out of 100. Nevertheless, I suggest you give it a try. Surprisingly, one of the more popular Hollywood movies in Thailand these day.
Movie Line, Stephanie Zacharek: I suspect the people who get The Tourist will simply adore it: It’s the kind of espionage caper that doesn’t get made anymore, a visually sensuous picture made with tender attention to detail and an elegant, understated sense of humor. In style and construction, its spiritual godfather is Stanley Donen’s Charade; thematically, its fairy godmother is Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve. If it were a drink, it would be a Bellini, fizzy and sweet and dry all at the same time.
TRON: Legacy (2D): US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 2 hrs 7 mins – Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father Kevin Flynn (Oscar- and Golden Globe-winner Jeff Bridges), a man once known as the world's leading video-game developer. Looking into his father's disappearance, he finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin's loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous. Mixed or average reviews: 49/56 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Tron Legacy boasts dazzling visuals, but its human characters and story get lost amidst its state-of-the-art production design.
Movieweb, Julian Roman: TRON: Legacy is flawless technically. The visual and aural elements are tremendous. The world of the grid is rippling with detail. The action scenes, particularly the light cycle races, are awesome. Factor in the 3D and IMAX aspect and you're in for an event.
Megamind (2D): US, Animation/ Action/ Comedy/ Family – 1 hr 35 mins – Actually, believe it or not, I found this rather cute and funny. But you do have to like animation. About the unhappiness of the most brilliant supervillain the world has ever known ... and the least successful. Over the years, he has tried to conquer Metro City in every imaginable way. Each attempt, a colossal failure, thanks to the caped superhero known as "Metro Man,” until the day one of Megamind’s evil plans actually defeats him. Some hilarious bits of comedy. Simply is not doing very well among the Thais. Generally favorable reviews: 63/67 out of 100. Now at Vista only, in 2D, and Thai-dubbed, with no English subtitles.
Millennium 3: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes: Sweden/ Denmark/ Germany, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – in Swedish, with Thai and English subtitles – 2 hrs 27 mins – The third and final episode in the “Millennium” series of three films widely popular throughout the world. In this final episode, two seriously injured people arrive at the emergency ward of the Sahlgrensa hospital in Gothenburg. One is the wanted murderer Lisbeth Salander who has taken a bullet to the head and needs immediate surgery, the other is Alexander Zalachenko, an older man who Lisbeth has attacked with an axe. In this third novel in the Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth is planning her revenge against the men who tried to kill her, and even more importantly, revenge against the government which nearly destroyed her life. But first she must escape from the intensive care unit and exculpate her name from the charges of murder that hangs over her head. Rated R in the US for strong violence, some sexual material, and brief language; 15+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews: 60/58 out of 100. At Vista only, with thanks for bringing this series to Chiang Mai.
IMDb viewer: The best of the bunch!
After watching Hornets’ Nest, you'll want to go back to Dragon Tattoo and experience all three films again in sequence. Like coming to the end of an exceptional book, you'll hope for more, surely another way to eke out a Lisbeth Salander film to enjoy. She has become with this trilogy one of the strongest female characters in 21st century film. No wonder actresses were battling to play her--she is the equivalent to Jason Bourne in any regard. (I can't imagine Hollywood doing a better job of these films--can you?)
Hornets’ Nest gives us a better film than the other in terms of suspense and dramatic flow. The pieces assemble, the foes are distinguished from the good guys, there is conflict and threat launched in surprising ways. Of the three, Hornets’ Nest is the most suspenseful and best executed of the films in my opinion, a superb finish to a wonderful series.
Sud Khet Sa Let Pet / Sud Kate Salade Ped / สุดเขตเสลดเป็ด: Thai, Comedy – 1 hr 30 mins – Kohtee Aramboy and Tukkie are among the ever-present Thai comedians in this film, engaged in comic antics much like all that has gone before in Thai comedies. But it’s what sells: this is the top film in Thailand for two weeks now. In Thai only at Vista.
Hor Taew Taek 3 / หอแต๋วแตก แหวกชิมิ: Thai, Comedy/ Horror – More of this dreadful story that is so popular here, about the haunted dorm and its unfortunate owners. After defeating the wicked ghost in Part 2, the three owners face a new wave of horror and horrible comedy when they visit a mysterious fraternity house and meet a handsome vampire. Oh, and werewolf. Another Poj Arnon directorial effort focusing on cross-dressing and gay characters and the laughs that can be got from them. Both the title and the advertising posters have run afoul of the Thai censors at the Ministry of Culture, and have been toned down. More popular than any Hollywood movie at the moment. In Thai only at Vista.
สาระแน...เห็นผี / Saranae Hen Pee: Thai, Comedy – 1 hr 30 mins – Ghosts, mayhem, and Mario Maurer. Two guys run afoul of a mobster and hide out at a Buddhist temple, which, wouldn’t you know, turns out to be haunted. More popular than any Hollywood movie at the moment. In Thai only at Vista.
Scheduled for January 20, 2011
Unknown: Canada, Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – Liam Neeson plays a man who awakens from a coma to discover that someone has taken on his identity and that no one, not even his wife, believes him. With the help of a young woman, he sets out to prove who he is.
... and looking forward
Jan 27: The Fighter: US, Biography/ Drama/ Sport – 1 hr 55 mins – Highly praised film likely to be a serious contender for many Oscar honors. The Fighter is a drama about boxer "Irish" Micky Ward's unlikely road to the world light welterweight title. His Rocky-like rise was shepherded by half-brother Dicky, a boxer-turned-trainer who rebounded in life after nearly being KO'd by drugs and crime. With Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality. Generally favorable reviews: 79/79 out of 100.
Feb 3: The Child’s Eye: Hong Kong, Horror – 1 hr 37 mins – Directed by Danny Pang (some have it by both of the twins, and written and produced by both Danny and Oxide Pang), this is touted as Asia's first digital 3D horror film! Stranded in Thailand by the political uprising and airport closure (surely not in Thailand!), a group of friends are unable to return home. Unwillingly, they stay in a shabby hotel (the film was shot in Bangkok), and came across three odd children and a puppy. Soon, strange supernatural encounters begin to occur. The Child's Eye premiered on September 4, 2010 at the Venice Film Festival, and has received negative reviews for the films perceived low-quality script.
Feb 17: Black Swan: (Release date for Thailand, but for Chiang Mai? Very uncertain) US, Drama/ Thriller – 1 hr 43 mins – follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who exerts a suffocating control over her. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. Directed by Darren Aronofsky.
* = Coming soon (hopefully)
AF = Alliance Française FS = Film Space
South East Asian Film Festival
The South East Asian Institute of Global Studies at Payap University presents “Lifescapes” – a festival running from February 3 to 6 at Payap University.
Opening and closing receptions, film screenings, discussion panels, and presentations will take place on the Payap University main campus. All films will be subtitled in English (and hopefully Thai also). All activities are free and open to the public.
The organizers write that Lifescapes will screen contemporary films – documentary, docu-drama, dramatic – to showcase thoughtful work with a social conscience. They hopes to raise awareness while celebrating the film culture and filmmakers of Southeast Asia who make meaningful social commentary with their work – showing the “beautiful” without flinching from “grim reality.”
They go on to say they hope to show films that explore regional issues and human rights struggles within mainland Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The festival will screen films and give audiences and directors the opportunity for discussion. Directors and film-makers are invited to speak, and representatives from NGO’s will host a cross-country forum.
Website for the festival: http://filmfestival.payap.ac.th/?page_id=56
Probably the most interesting and important of the films is:
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Sun. 6 February, 7:00pm
At Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, Cinema 7
This showing of Uncle Boonmee is really quite an event for Chiang Mai, and may be your only chance to see this mysterious film which won the Palme d'Or at the last Cannes Festival.
Tickets: 100 baht (normal seat); 120 baht (honeymoon seat); 300 baht (Opera Chair – 2 persons)
Tickets are now available for purchase at the following places:
Payap University, Mae Khao Campus
Pentecost Building, Room 115
Raan Lao Bookshop
Nimanhaemin Rd, near Soi 2
Cup A Book Cafe
Nimanhaemin Rd, opposite Soi 13
DVD Film & Music
Wing 41 T-junction (off Suthep Rd.)
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, January 14: Le Quai des brumes / Port of Shadows (1938) by Marcel Carné – 91 mins – France Crime/ Drama/ Romance. Black and white. Generally favorable reviews: 79 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan, Pierre Brasseur.
A deserter encounters in a harbor a poor girl. They fall in love but he kills his girl-friend's tutor who wanted to rape her. At last he's killed himself by a hooligan and the ship he wanted to go aboard to escape goes away without him...
– Alliance description
TV Guide: This marvelous distillation of the prevailing mood in prewar France was the first feature to win critical acclaim for the directing-writing team of Marcel Carne and Jacques Prévert (who had collaborated on Jenny and Bizarre, Bizarre, and who would later create the beloved Children Of Paradise). Gabin plays a deserter who comes to the port of Le Havre looking for passage to a distant country. In a local dive he becomes attracted to Morgan, ward of the owner of a shop that is a front for illicit dealing. When Gabin comes to Simon's shop to buy a gift for Morgan, the evil Simon promises Gabin a passport and money if he will kill one of Simon's enemies. Gabin refuses. But hope for Gabin's escape comes when visionary artist Le Vigan gives the deserter his own passport before walking out on the quay and drowning himself.
A classic of French poetic realism, Port Of Shadows conveys a deeply fatalistic belief that humankind is at the mercy of malevolent fate, a message that is communicated both through the simple story line and through the superb fog-shrouded sets (the work of Alexander Trauner) and forbidding locations. Ironically, Port Of Shadows was originally to have been a German production. Carne was introduced to the Mac Orlan novel on which the picture is loosely based by Raoul Ploquin, then head of French productions at UFA in Berlin. Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels turned thumbs down on the project, however; he considered this story of a deserter to be decadent. The rights were sold to French producer Gregor Rabinovitch, who envisioned a lighter, happier film, and so quarreled constantly with Carne. Carne also had political problems within his own country, primarily with the French minister of war, who would not permit the word "deserter" to be used and insisted that Gabin's soldier's uniform be treated respectfully. As a result, writer Prévert was forced to deviate from the novel in almost every respect. Notably, in the book, Morgan's heroine is no tempest-tossed innocent; she is a prostitute who murders her pimp and ends up wealthy. Banned from being shown during the Nazi occupation of France.
On Friday, January 21, 2011: La Bête humaine / The Human Beast (1938) by Jean Renoir – 100 mins – France, Drama. Black and white. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 80 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Simone Simon, Fernard Ledoux.
Séverine and her husband Roubaud kill their former employer on a train. Jacques an engineer witnesses the murder but does not report them to the police as he is deeply in love with Severine. However, during an epileptic fit, he kills her...
– Alliance description
Film Society of Lincoln Center: "A love story of the railroads," transformed from the Zola novel into a darkly predestined narrative, a beautiful example of "poetic realism" at its height. In this railwayman driven to murder, Jean Gabin perfectly incarnates a flawed soul who falls in love with another man's wife (Simone Simon, ever catlike) and plots with her to kill her inconvenient husband. Some remarkable sequences depicting the milieu in which the protagonist works and plays are shot in a simple, nearly documentary style that catches the rhythms of life on and around trains; and a brutal murder intercut with scenes from workers' festivities is not to be forgotten.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
January is “The Month of Coming of Age” at Film Space.
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the Chiang Mai University (CMU) Art Museum (at 239 Nimmanhemin Road, corner of Suthep Road), 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, January 15, 2011, 7 pm: Empire Records (1995) by Allan Moyle – 1 hr 30 mins (unless it’s the “special extended edition” in which case it’s 1 hr 47 mins) – US, Comedy/ Drama/ Music. A day in the life of the employees of Empire Records. Except this is a day where everything comes to a head for a number of them facing personal crises - can they pull through together? And more importantly, can they keep their record store independent and not swallowed up by corporate greed? Generally unfavorable reviews: 30/43 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: This story about a day in the life of an independent record store, truly a threatened species, screeches with the sound of teenagers falling apart... This story about a day in the life of an independent record store, truly a threatened species, screeches with the sound of teenagers falling apart emotionally every five minutes. The script, which feels like an old guy's idea of how kids talk and think, concerns the young employees of a Delaware music shop faced with imminent extinction. While the ship is sinking, the staff indulge in tantrums, depressions, and run-ins with low self-esteem. There's a lot of noise in this thing, but not a lot is really said. Rory Cochrane has the best part as a secretive guy who loses the store's proceeds one night while gambling, Anthony LaPaglia is the adult boss and unofficial dad to the others, Renée Zellweger plays a promiscuous girl, and Liv Tyler is OK as a lovestruck sweet thing trying to get up the nerve to express her feelings to a fellow employee.
Los Angeles Times: David Kronke: The sun can't set too soon on this Empire.
At Film Space Saturday, January 22, 2011, 7 pm: The Virgin Suicides (1999) by Sofia Coppola – 1 hr 37 mins – US, Drama/ Mystery/ Romance. A group of men who live in an affluent American suburb in the '70s are forever changed by their obsession with five doomed sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents after one of them commits suicide. Rated R in the US for strong thematic elements involving teens. Generally favorable reviews: 76/75 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Sofia's successful directorial debut lies in the movie's compelling story and the actors' genuine emotions.
At the Gay Film Series
Next showing January 23, at 7 pm: Amphetamine (2010), a Hong Kong film directed by Scud. Openly gay banker Daniel debates whether to return to Australia or stay in Hong Kong when he meets Kafka, a straight swimming instructor. The young men fall in love, believing that their love can bridge anything, despite their difference in sexuality and Kafka's increasing drug use.
Films with a gay theme shown generally 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: email@example.com (note the new address), mark in subject area “reserve” with the number in your party. To be placed on the mailing list for advance notice of movies just put in the subject line: “mailing list.”