Battles rage in Northern England ... in 140 A.D.
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, February 17, 2011
… through Wednesday, February 23
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: The Fighter. The Next Three Days.
To think he comes from playing the lead in “Un prophète”!
– Tahar Rahim as the Seal Prince in “The Eagle,” a near-primitive warrior who speaks in ancient Gaelic and is leader of a violent secluded tribe that roams the land in
what is known today as northern England.
He’s an enemy of Rome.
This is Issue Number 16 of Volume 6 of these listings, in our sixth year!
The current festivals lineup:
9th World Film Festival of Bangkok: Nov 4 to 13, 2011.
2nd Luang Prabang Film Festival in Luang Prabang: Dec 3 to 10, 2011.
[No Doi Saket Film Festival this year, but planned for 2012.]
The Oscar show is February 27 in the US, but February 28 early morning here in Thailand. On TrueVisions TV, it’s at 6 am for the arrivals on the red carpet on True Inside (Channel D61). 8 am for the arrivals on Star Movies (Channel D45). 8:30 am on both channels for the show itself. Evening rerun on Star Movies: arrivals 7 pm, show 7:30 pm.
Here are the ten films nominated for best picture with notes as to whether we might see each here in Chiang Mai. So far we’ve seen four. It’s unfortunate The Fighter is doing so poorly in Thailand and here in Chiang Mai; it’s truly an excellent film with some not-to-be-missed performances. Now down to only one showing a day. Go!
“Black Swan” – now scheduled for Thailand on 24 Feb at Major Cineplex; don’t know about here.
“The Fighter” – opened in Chiang Mai last Thursday. Now playing. Terrific performances; don’t miss it.
“Inception” – already played here.
“The Kids Are All Right” – not scheduled for Thailand yet.
“The King’s Speech” – now playing, but only at Apex Scala, Siam Square; and SFX Cinema Emporium.
“127 Hours” – now Mar 10 for Thailand.
“The Social Network” – already played here.
“Toy Story” – already played here.
“True Grit” – Feb 24 for Thailand.
“Winter’s Bone” – not scheduled for Thailand yet.
I’ve seen them all now. Next week I’ll give my pick of the best of the year – but it has to be the two best, because movies can be so different in purposes. One of my picks for best of the year is the movie I think best shows off the magic of movies and the glamour of Hollywood – what the Oscars were designed to do. Last year that would have been Avatar. (And I am looking forward to Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 now being written by James Cameron featuring most of the same cast and scheduled to be filmed together and released Dec 2014 and Dec 2015.) The other “best” is the best at old-fashioned storytelling. You know, characters and story. Both my picks played here months ago. As to what the Academy will choose, that is a nearly pointless question. There’s just no second-guessing what the Academy will do.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* The Eagle: US/ UK, Adventure – 1 hr 54 mins – In 2nd-Century Britain, two men – master and slave – venture beyond the edge of the known world on a dangerous and obsessive quest that will push them beyond the boundaries of loyalty and betrayal, friendship and hatred, deceit and heroism. This Roman epic adventure is directed by Kevin Macdonald and based on Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic novel The Eagle of the Ninth. With Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, and Mark Strong. Mixed or average reviews: 56/53 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.
In 140 AD, the Roman Empire extends all the way to Britain – though its grasp is incomplete, as the rebellious tribes of Caledonia (today’s Scotland) hold sway in the far North. Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) arrives in Britain, determined to restore the tarnished reputation of his father, Flavius Aquila. It was 20 years earlier that Rome’s 5,000-strong Ninth Legion, under the command of Flavius and carrying their golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth, marched north into Caledonia. They never returned; Legion and Eagle simply vanished into the mists. Angered, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of a wall to seal off the territory; Hadrian’s Wall became the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire – the edge of the known world.
Driven to become a brilliant soldier and now given command of a small fort in the southwest, Marcus bravely leads his troops during a siege. Commended by Rome for his bravery, yet discharged from the army because of his severe wounds, Marcus convalesces, demoralized, in the villa of his Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland), a retired army man. When Marcus impulsively gets a young Briton’s life spared at a gladiatorial contest, Aquila buys the Briton, Esca (Jamie Bell), to be Marcus’ slave. Marcus is dismissive of Esca, who harbors a seething hatred of all things Roman. Yet Esca vows to serve the man who has saved his life.
Hearing a rumor that the Eagle has been seen in a tribal temple in the far north, Marcus is galvanized into action, and sets off with Esca across Hadrian’s Wall. But the highlands of Caledonia are a vast and savage wilderness, and Marcus must rely on his slave to navigate the region. When they encounter ex-Roman soldier Guern (Mark Strong), Marcus realizes that the mystery of his father’s disappearance may well be linked to the secret of his own slave’s identity and loyalty – a secret all the more pressing when the two come face-to-face with the warriors of the fearsome Seal Prince (Tahar Rahim).
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: The Eagle has a pleasantly traditional action-adventure appeal, but it's drowned out by Kevin Macdonald's stolid direction and Channing Tatum's uninspired work in the central role.
Roger Ebert: The Eagle is a rip-snorting adventure tale of the sort made before CGI, 3-D and alphabet soup in general took the fun out of moviegoing. So much does it evoke the energy of traditional sword-and-shield movies that I had to bring the term "rip-snorting" out of retirement; it's rarely needed in this era of sleek technology. Here we see for the most part the actual actors trekking through real locations, instead of quasi-animation.
The story is one I dimly recall, about the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion, which marched north from the colony of England into the unknown wilds of Scotland and was never heard from again. It tells of an uneasy bond between a centurion named Marcus (Channing Tatum) and a slave named Esca (Jamie Bell), who join on a mission to discover what happened to the Ninth Legion and its proud symbol, a golden eagle.
Some Americans find it quaint that the Scots and Welsh don't think of themselves as English. A Yank can receive the occasional fat lip for that mistake. Scotland was an independent kingdom until well over a millennium after the time of this story, which is set in about 140 A.D. So fearsome were the Scots warriors that the Roman Emperor Hadrian threw up his hands and decreed that a border wall be erected in his name, whether to keep the Scots out or administer a full body pat-down, I am not sure.
In The Eagle, Marcus is assigned to lead a minor Roman outpost in England some 20 years after the death of his father, who is still blamed for having lost the Eagle. Seriously wounded, he returns to Italy, as it was not then known, to heal at the villa of his Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland). Attending a deadly fight of gladiators, he decrees that the life of the courageous slave Esca be spared and takes him along when he returns to England and takes up a more important command.
Marcus burns with the need to find the solution to the missing legion and find the lost Eagle, and against all sane advice determines that he and Esca will cross the wall on a low-profile mission. They discover some answers, not without a great deal of bloodshed. One secret of the film's success is that their quest and the battle scenes are on a more or less plausible human scale. The editing is so rapid that we can't really follow the strategy of the swordplay, but at least a finite number of physical humans seem involved, instead of the absurd tidal waves of warriors in a CGI-fest like 300.
I think we've possibly seen the last of choreographed sword fights, anyway. They reached their peak in classic Hollywood films and samurai dramas, and those in Rob Roy (1995) were among the best ever performed. I understood them. These days, in scenes where there's a berserk human traffic jam of sword-fighters on the screen, don't you think that more or less everyone would be left with a number of limbs not divisible by two?
The Eagle has two strengths. One is that it is interested in its period, and what kinds of R
omans and barbarians might have lived then. The second is that is really comes down to the relationship of Marcus and Esca, who risk their lives for each other but remain conscious that they are master and slave, and never become buddies. I suppose it is a negative strength that there are no major female characters; this is not the sort of world where women would be expected, and the insertion of romantic interest so obligatory in lesser movies would seem awkward here.
The Eagle is rated PG-13, and that's about right. The blood and gore is kept to a reasonable level, and the battle scenes are about heroism and strategy, not special effects. The Eagle attempts to create characters with some dimension and complexity. During Donald Sutherland's interlude as the wise uncle, it provides some notion of the function of empire, then and later. And Tatum and Bell do a good job of sculpting the heroes to a fairly human scale and not indulging in foolish poses against the horizon. The movie goes a little over the top in finally showing us the Eagle, but what can you expect?
* Panya Raenu / ปัญญา เรณู: Thai, Comedy/ Drama: Panya Raenu is a story of friendship and dream that centers on a young boy named Panya who has a talent for singing, but is too poor to afford a local music contest. However, with his determination and the support of his friends, Panya hopes to win the contest. At Airport Plaza only.
* Sanctum 3D: Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Thriller – 1 hr 49 mins – The 3-D action-thriller Sanctum follows a team of underwater cave divers on a treacherous expedition to the largest, most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. When a tropical storm forces them deep into the caverns, they must fight raging water, deadly terrain, and creeping panic as they search for an unknown escape route to the sea. Master diver Frank McGuire has explored the South Pacific's Esa-ala Caves for months. But when his exit is cut off in a flash flood, Frank's team – including 17-year-old son Josh and financier Carl Hurley – are forced to radically alter plans. With dwindling supplies, the crew must navigate an underwater labyrinth to make it out. Soon, they are confronted with the unavoidable question: Can they survive, or will they be trapped forever? Rated R in the US for language, some violence, and disturbing images. Mixed or average reviews: 42/45 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Sanctum is beautifully photographed, and it makes better use of 3-D technology than most, but that doesn't make up for its ham-handed script and lifeless cast.
Salon, Andrew O’Hehir: In one of those Hollywood marketing gambits that's simultaneously truthful and intended to spread confusion, Sanctum is described as a film "from executive producer James Cameron, the creator of 'Titanic' and 'Avatar.'" In some ad copy, the words "executive producer" are omitted, and in all cases they're in teeny little letters. And then there's the fact that nobody knows what an executive producer is or does. I don't just mean that nobody in the general public knows, although that's true; nobody in the movie industry really knows either, except that it almost never describes anyone who played a hands-on role in making a film. Most likely, Cameron served as an investor and consultant to Sanctum director Alister Grierson, lending the project his imprimatur, his expertise in underwater photography and his 3-D digital technology.
Which is fine and all, but I'm not sure the combination does anyone any favors. Whatever his faults as a filmmaker may be, Cameron would never make an adventure flick that felt this bland and generic.
USA Today, Claudia Puig: A documentary on the formation of stalagmites would have been more compelling.
Washington Post, Mark Jenkins: Set in Papua New Guinea (but filmed in Australia with a largely Australian cast), Sanctum sends about a dozen divers on an expedition into sprawling, partially flooded catacombs. The sequences introducing these explorers are ineptly written; the dialogue mixes cliches with phony tough-guy banter and TV-sports mottos. (One supporting player rarely says anything but "let's do it.") The movie is most convincing when the characters have air tubes in their mouths, and it's always cause for alarm when the adventurers stop swimming to talk out some conflict.
Sanctum opens with the claim that it's inspired by a true story; that real-life incident actually involved co-writer Andrew Wight. But Wight's adventure was a lot less grisly than the one he and John Garvin have devised. This is a movie that features not one, but two graphic mercy killings. Forget 127 Hours: Sanctum makes sawing off your own arm look like a minor penalty for the crime of spelunking while clueless.
Time, Richard Corliss: The ads show lots of water and one prominent name: James Cameron. So you'd be forgiven for inferring — as you are damn well expected to — that the Avatar auteur had something very important to do with Sanctum, and that the movie will build on Cameron's fascination with the mysteries and terrors of dark waters that dates back to his first feature, Piranha Part II: The Spawning, blossomed in The Abyss, made him a mint in Titanic and was further explored in his marine documentaries Expedition: Bismarck, Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep.
In fact, Cameron served only as executive producer of Sanctum, which was produced and cowritten by his diving buddy and colleague, Andrew Wight. Cameron is not the big fish in charge, just bait for the mass audience. As he Tweeted from a junket last week: "Right now it's a #Sanctum promotion (I'm such a ho)."
James Cameron: “I'm such a ho”
Doing a favor for a friend by lending him your world-famous name can be an act of loyalty, not of prostitution. Further, Sanctum should thrum with action-film tension: it's based on the true story of Wight's 1988 expedition into a remote cave system, where a sudden storm sealed off the entrance and 15 people were trapped deep underground, amid craggy tunnels and perilous waters, with no option but to keep going lower in hopes of finding the source of a river that might carry them to safety. As the ads tease, "The only way out is down."
Wight also assembled a talented, if not especially renowned, cast. Alas, all for nothing. Sanctum is a stinker, a horror movie without a visible monster, a deep dive into shallow characters who bray at one another in a harsh English-based dialect I'm told is Australian. Under the heavy hand of director Alister Grierson, the dynamics and technique of survival are reduced to a lot of carping between the no-nonsense, good-guy Aussies and the venal, treacherous Americans.
Worse yet, the film, using the 3-D technology that helped make Avatar such a gorgeous experience, lacks visual grandeur. The wonder of caving is expressed in the line, "Where else can you shine a light where no human's been before?", and we do catch glimpses of mammoth cave naves that might be as glorious as the interior of the Chartres cathedral; but the lights the divers brought are not nearly strong enough to illuminate the spectacle. What you get is mostly dark, and all wet.
Roger Ebert: "Sanctum" tells the story of a terrifying adventure in an incompetent way. Some of it is exciting, the ending is involving, and all of it is a poster child for the horrors of 3-D used badly. The film is being heavily marketed as a "James Cameron Production," but if this were a "James Cameron Film," I suspect it would have fewer flaws and the use of 3-D would be much improved.
* Love and Other Drugs: US, Comedy/ Drama – 1 hr 52 mins – A salesman competes in the cutthroat world of pharmaceuticals to hawk a male performance enhancement drug. Based on Jamie Reidy's memoir "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman." Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Rated R in the US for strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material; 18+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews: 55/58 out of 100. At Vista only.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: It's a pleasure to see Hollywood produce a romance this refreshingly adult, but Love and Other Drugs struggles to find a balance between its disparate plot elements.
Eye for Film, Amber Wilkinson: Love and Other Drugs is an odd cocktail of a film, combining the upper of a surprisingly sexy romance with the impressively handled downer of Parkinson's disease, yet adding an annoying amount of cliché to the mix. That Edward Zwick's film mostly gets away with this heady combination is largely due to the performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, who bring significant amounts of chemistry and energy to their central roles. Interesting ideas lurk, tantalisingly, underneath the romcom formula and yet every brave move Zwick and his co-writers make is countered by something weak and formulaic, as if in apology..
Chicago Reader, J. R. Jones: Eight months after health-care reform was signed into law, Universal Pictures courageously weighs in with a watered-down satire of the pharmaceutical industry.
Portland Oregonian, Marc Mohan: They could have made a harder-hitting, more realistic film, but then no one would have gone to see it.
ReelViews, James Berardinelli: The first thing one notices about Love and Other Drugs is that it's an adult romance. So many current love stories are targeted at teenagers that it's rare to find one that sidesteps the numerous contrivances that permeate the genre. Love and Other Drugs presents an honest, sometimes brutal chronicle of a complicated relationship. There are no "meet cutes" or romantic complications. The issues encountered by Jamie and Maggie are those faced by many couples where emotional openness is a barrier and where the sickness of one partner creates a commitment imbalance. And, although Maggie's Parkinson's is a factor, this is by no means a "disease of the week" motion picture.
Love and Other Drugs has an unfettered view of sexuality. It's part of the human experience and is treated as such, especially since it's the initial strand that binds Jamie and Maggie. Zwick has a specific approach to the characters' nudity, and it's not based (exclusively) on titillation. There's a lot of flesh early in their interaction, during the "Honeymoon phase." Later, as the characters' focus shifts from physical to emotional, instances of nudity becomes uncommon. There is an inverse relationship between physical nakedness and emotional nakedness.
One element of the story that doesn't work as effectively as it might have is a satirical airing of the drug industry's dirty laundry. Although there are insights into how things work, none are especially surprising (especially to a cynic like me) and rarely does the screenplay bare its fangs. To the extent that Love and Other Drugs is intended to make a statement about the amorality of the pharmaceutical industry (bus trips to Canada) and the way in which it manipulates doctors and patients (Knight's demand for giving preferential treatment to Zoloft over Prozac), it succeeds only partially. The movie works better on a human level than as the bearer of a message. elements.
* Bruce Lee, My Brother / 李小龍: Hong Kong/ China, Biography/ Drama – 2 hrs 9 mins – A dramatic biopic of the martial arts legend as told by his younger brother, Robert Lee. It revolves around Bruce Lee's life as a rebellious adolescent in Hong Kong until he sets off for the USA and conquers the world at the age of 18 with only $100 in his pocket. With Aarif Rahman as the teenage Bruce Lee, who grows up in the bustling company of countless relatives, family acquaintances, childhood pals, and would-be girlfriends. Tony Leung Ka-fai and Christy Chung give compelling turns as Lee’s strict yet caring parents. At Vista only, and apparently in Chinese (Cantonese) only, with Thai subtitles but not English. However, Vista personnel were not sure about the lack of English subtitles, so it’s best to check at the box office.
A Nutshell Review, Stefan S: Based upon the book “Bruce Lee, My Brother” by Robert Lee, Bruce's youngest brother, directors Raymond Yip and Manfred Wong take us on a journey that was begging to be made about the formative, growing up years of Lee Jun Fan / Lee Sai Feng. This film takes a nostalgic look back to the 40s to 60s Hong Kong, focusing on the somewhat wayward youth and teen actor prior to being “exiled” by his dad to the US for his own protection, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Beyond Hollywood, Nix: A (mostly) happy-go lucky story of a Chinese kid growing up in 1960s Hong Kong, with a segment here and there showing various moments of major historical significance that transpires parallel to our hero’s mostly unremarkable life. Of course, this is not a movie about any ol Chinese kid; it’s about Bruce Lee – arguably the most famous Chinese actor/ man/ martial artist in the 20th century. Unfortunately, if you went into the film expecting just that – the film about the legend – you will leave very disappointed. Bruce Lee does not even learn Wing Chun until nearly 75 minutes into the film, and he does not even fight anyone using his newfound skills until 90 minutes into the two-hour movie. Consider yourself properly warned.
But if you were to take “Bruce Lee” out of the title and just leave the “My Brother” part, then Bruce Lee, My Brother is a very agreeable film about a young man growing up in a house of actors, who then becomes involved in the burgeoning Hong Kong film industry, and finds love and heartache as he matures into a man. Cantonese pop star Aarif Lee stars as Bruce Lee, a cocky but all-around nice guy with dreams of one day becoming a worldwide sensation. Much of the film is simply about a young man with big dreams, who was born in San Francisco to an actor father (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and accidentally given the name Bruce by the attending nurse (his mother was trying to name him Push Lee). We see him grow up during the Japanese occupation of WWII, before finally thriving in the streets and cha-cha dance halls of Hong Kong during British colonial rule.
Despite boasting actual, first-person Lee family input (Robert Lee narrates much of the film in voiceover), My Brother clearly takes more than a few liberties with Bruce Lee’s life and times. I’m reasonably certain that there was no recurring villain in Lee’s life, here represented by a weaselly traitor who collaborates with the Japanese during WWII, the British during colonial rule, and then later, picks up the drug dealing trade for the sake of the trifecta. Other aspects of Lee’s life as portrayed in the movie seems more believable – his love of cha-cha dancing, his romantic entanglements, and his eventual training of Wing Chun under the legendary Ip Man, who is curiously only seen from behind for a split-second. Lee’s impetus to learn Wing Chun comes in the form of a generic British loudmouth boxer, who, along with Lee, accounts for the film’s two action scenes, first in a boxing ring and then later in a warehouse throwdown.
What Bruce Lee, My Brother lacks in the action department, it somewhat makes up for it in other areas. Co-written by director Manfred Wong and Raymond Yip, My Brother is more palatable as an easy-going coming-of-age drama, at least when it’s not masquerading as the true story of a famous person..
* Operation: Endgame / Rogues Gallery: US, Action/ Comedy – 1 hr 27 mins – A dry action-comedy about two teams of government assassins working out of a top-secret underground facility using code names from the Tarot deck. When our hero--The Fool--arrives for his first day at work to find that the boss has been killed under mysterious circumstances, he must find the killer before the whole place blows up. Rated R in the US for strong violence and pervasive language including sexual references; 18+ in Thailand. (It includes murder by staple remover and shelf divider.) Mixed or average reviews: 50 out of 100. At Vista only.
Brian Orndorf: Operation: Endgame highlights a type of showoff screenwriting that wows producers and pulls in talent, but rarely makes much of an impression once all the elements are put together. Ostensibly a tale of spy beats spy, this violent picture appears to lust for some form of outward importance or daring political stance, but the reality is a ragingly unfunny black comedy with lifeless stunt work and a cast stuck in cruddy improvisational mode, floundering mightily while preparing for death.
A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin: Operation: Endgame is a film of rare ambition and even rarer miscalculation. There’s a tragic, almost inconceivable gulf between the bone-dry, pitch-black Dr. Strangelove-style military-industrial-complex satire the filmmakers set out to make, and the incoherent, painful, borderline-unwatchable mess that’s being shuffled to DVD in the dim hopes it can eke out a few dollars from gullible audiences intrigued by the cavalcade of name actors in the cast. Operation: Endgame has many problems, but a lack of star-power isn’t one of them, though it remains a mystery what could have attracted Rob Corddry, Ellen Barkin, Maggie Q, Zach Galifianakis, Adam Scott, Tropic Thunder’s Brandon T. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Ving Rhames, and Jeffrey Tambor to material this dire.
For all its pretensions to biting satire, Endgame offers little more than the sad spectacle of an overqualified cast violently murdering each other inside tiny, depressing little offices while wearing snazzy business attire.
The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis: Mildly amusing for the first 30 minutes, Operation: Endgame is a foul-mouthed spoof of secret-agent silliness. Set on the day of President Obama’s inauguration, the movie descends into a sterile, fluorescent-lit bunker to observe two rival teams of government assassins, all named for Tarot cards and all seriously disturbed. When a team leader is killed, the facility goes into lockdown, and a self-destruct mechanism is accidentally triggered. Instead of looking for a way out, these maladjusted operatives decide to have at one another with office supplies — a shredder to the face is particularly creative — and more profanities than a season’s worth of HBO.
Beyond Hollywood, Brent McKnight: Operation: Endgame is a haphazard mish-mash of comedy and action. The action is so-so, and there are a couple of decent fight scene, including an excellent use for a paper shredder, but the movie works best when the rival agents banter back and forth. There are a handful of moments that verge on brilliant, but as a whole, Operation: Endgame leaves a lot to be desired..
From Prada to Nada: (Opened Saturday, Feb 12) US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 1 hr 47 mins – A Latina spin on Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," where two spoiled sisters who have been left penniless after their father's sudden death are forced to move in with their estranged aunt in East Los Angeles. Generally unfavorable reviews: 39/44 out of 100.
From the producer: From Prada to Nada is a modern twist on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, is a new romantic comedy starring Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Wilmer... From Prada to Nada is a modern twist on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. It's a whimsical fish-out-of-water story of two spoiled sisters: a law student (Camilla Belle), and an undergrad party girl (Alexa Vega), living with their father in a luxurious mansion in Beverly Hills. The student has become so "90210" she refuses to admit she is of Mexican descent. When dad suddenly passes away, their posh lives are turned upside down. They discover they have been left penniless and are forced to move into their estranged aunt’s (Adriana Barraza) modest but lively home in the Latino-centric Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA. They are terrified to leave their world of privilege; neither of them speak Spanish or have ever had to take on actual responsibility. The girls gradually adapt to their new environment; their BMW and Prius are traded for the public bus and a used car. As they embrace the culture that for so long they refused to accept, they both discover romance, the true meaning of family, and they learn that the life of Prada actually means Nada without love, family and community. Directed by Angel Gracia from a screenplay based on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
Village Voice, Aaron Hillis: Under all the pretty faces and MTV Latino pop, there's something crassly disingenuous about the movie's blatant demographic pandering (hooray for immigration-panic jokes!) and half-assed condemnation of gluttony.
The Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck: Features sitcom-style stock characters and situations, not to mention the sort of ethnic stereotypes to be found in TV ads for fast-food Mexican restaurant chains.
Jam! Movies, Liz Braun: Hear that funny swooshing noise? That's the sound of Jane Austen spinning in her grave over From Prada To Nada.
The Fighter: US, Biography/ Drama/ Sport – 1 hr 55 mins – Highly praised film nominated for a best-picture Oscar, best director, best supporting actor (Christian Bale), 2 best supporting actresses (Amy Adams and Melissa Leo), best original screenplay, best editing. 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, giving two outstanding performances. I found it riveting and rousing, and somewhat unpleasant. Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality. Generally favorable reviews: 79/78 out of 100.
Mark Wahlberg’s ring sequences are the real thing, and need to be seen to be believed. This film is close to Wahlberg’s heart (he is one of the producers, waived his own salary, and took no upfront fee) and he began training for the role in 2005. Throughout the various production delays, Wahlberg continued to train every day so that he could be ready for filming. Filming finally began in July 2009, and what he does in the ring is very believable.
A truly unpleasant woman: Melissa Leo
as the destructive mother of The Fighter
The unpleasantness comes from the family and to a lesser degree the members of the neighborhood, who are hardly admirable characters, living more like bickering animals than humans. I would have to take away from this film the lesson that devotion to one’s family can very often be the worst possible path one could take.
Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern: While the film handles itself well in the ring, it's brilliant in the arena of a blue-collar family that brutalizes its younger son and best hope for worldly success in the name of sustaining him.
New York Observer, Rex Reed: These are characters so repulsive that it's hard to care what happens to them, but it's to the credit of a superb cast that you do end up caring.
Roger Ebert: His family is spectacularly dysfunctional. Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), his half-brother, is the failed version of what Micky hopes to become: a poor kid from Lowell, Mass., who wins because of his ability to outlast savage punishment and finally land a winning blow. ... Melissa Leo (Frozen River) is merciless in her depiction of Alice; steering her son to failure is more rewarding than having him succeed on his own.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Led by a trio of captivating performances from Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams, The Fighter is a solidly entertaining, albeit predictable, entry in the boxing drama genre.
The Rite: US, Drama/ Horror/ Thriller – 1 hr 52 mins – Anthony Hopkins is at his spooky best again as the filmmakers trot out the well-worn possessed/ exorcism/ priest scenario. If one can believe such things, this is “inspired by true events.” We follow a skeptical seminary student as he reluctantly attends exorcism school at the Vatican, and while in Rome, he meets an unorthodox priest (Hopkins) who introduces him to the darker side of his faith. The studio says: “A supernatural thriller that uncovers the Devil's reach to even one of the holiest places on Earth. Inspired by true events, the film follows seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), who is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Wearing his deep skepticism like armor, Michael challenges his superiors to look to psychiatry, rather than demons, in treating the possessed. Only when he's sent to apprentice with the unorthodox Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins)--a legendary priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms--does Michael's armor begin to fall. As he is drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas's skill, he begins to glimpse a phenomenon science can't explain or control...and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.” Directed by Mikael Håfström (1408). Generally unfavorable reviews: 38/41 out of 100.
The Next Three Days: US/ France, Crime/ Drama/ Romance – 2 hrs 2 mins – I enjoyed this; it was a nice puzzler. A woman is arrested for murdering her boss with whom she had a public argument. She was seen leaving the scene of the crime and her fingerprints were on the murder weapon. Her husband spends the next few years trying to get her released but there's no evidence that negates the evidence against her. When the strain of being separated from her family – especially her son – gets too much for her, John decides to break her out. Directed by Paul Haggis (Crash), and starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, and Liam Neeson. Mixed or average reviews: 52/58 out of 100. At Vista only.
Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum: The Next Three Days follows an ordinary guy named John (Russell Crowe) as he executes a wildly complicated plan to spring his wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), from prison, where she has been locked up for a murder she says she didn't commit. Jailbreaking is not John's forte — he's a community-college professor in Pittsburgh and he drives a Prius. But all judicial appeals have failed, and the couple's young son is so very sad. So, spurred by love, despair, and belief in his wife's innocence, John turns to desperate measures. First, however, he does some Internet homework that leads him to Damon (Liam Neeson), an ex-con-turned-author who provides expert advice on the art of escape.
Damon's how-to-break-the-law lesson — as ludicrous as anything else in this enjoyably zigzaggy exercise in accumulating peril — grants Neeson the fun of experimenting with an American ex-con accent for his one scene. It also sets up the movie's real strength, which is generating escalating waves of plot tension and misdirection as John, heeding advice, makes his jail-busting moves. Writer-director Paul Haggis (Crash), who adapted The Next Three Days from a 2008 French thriller, Pour Elle, clearly has Alfred Hitchcock's wrong-man-in-wrong-place psychological archetype in mind as John weaves all over Pittsburgh. Lara, for her part, has no idea of her husband's plan — the usually sunnier Banks is an interesting, counterintuitive casting choice — and when she finds out, she adds her own complications. Soon the chase becomes its own perpetual-motion machine, one that ticks down to the last second.
No Strings Attached: US, Comedy/ Romance – 1 hr 48 mins – To gauge from the previews, this film is likely to get the blatant smut award of the year, but at least the raunch is clever and cheerful. A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it's not long before they learn that they want something more.The studio puts it this way: “In this comedy, Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who almost ruin everything by having sex one morning. In order... In this comedy, Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who almost ruin everything by having sex one morning. In order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly "no strings attached." "No strings" means no jealousy, no expectations, no fighting, no flowers, no baby voices. It means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever public place they want, as long as they don't fall in love. The questions become - Can you have sex without love getting in the way? And can their friendship survive?” Rated R in the US for sexual content, language, and some drug material – but only rated 15+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews: 51/53 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: It benefits from the presence of Natalie Portman and director Ivan Reitman's steady hand, but No Strings Attached doesn't have the courage or conviction to follow through on its ribald premise.
The Green Hornet 3D: US, Action/ Comedy/ Crime – 1 hr 59 mins – A strange piece, designed to be nothing but a thoughtless piece of fluff. As such, it’s okay. Seth Rogen as the Hornet is an unlikely and uncomfortable super-hero, and almost unlikeable. Cameron Diaz is the romantic interest, but the unrestrained pleasure is the arch-villain played by Christoph Waltz, the Austrian actor who took the film world by storm by his marvelous portrayal of a Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds. Of special interest to Asians is the role of the hero’s sidekick Cato, played by Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou. He acquits himself well in this – his slight acting skills and his shaky use of English is underplayed, and to cover we are served a number of funny sight gags and some impressive martial arts. If you approach it with a relaxed frame-of-mind, you should find it entertaining enough. Generally unfavorable reviews: 39/45 out of 100. Now shown only in 2D.
Miami Herald, Rene Rodriguez: The Green Hornet — the saga of Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day and masked hero by night who battles baddies with his Asian sidekick Kato — has been around for almost a century: radio show in the 1930s, film serial in the 1940s and TV series in the 1960s. All of those incarnations played the crime fighter straight, but director Michel Gondry’s big-screen revival takes the material in a radically different direction. This Hornet is a big, boisterous action-comedy — a funny, exciting, and intentionally goofy summer movie that just happens to arrive in the middle of January.
Washington Post, Dan Kois: Rogen and Jay Chou, the charismatic Taiwanese pop star who plays Britt's partner, Kato, have real chemistry. The movie somehow manages not to marginalize or insult Kato, a character who in the early "Hornet" radio serials was something of an offensive Asian caricature. In fact, Kato's often the best part of the movie. Britt calls him a "human Swiss army knife," and he's right; Kato is not a sidekick, but a fully formed hero who's full of surprises.
Teng Nong Jiwon Bin / เท่งโหน่งจีวรบิน: Thai, Action/ Comedy – 1 hr 45 mins – Standard Thai comedy fare, but it seems to be tickling all the right funnybones, because it’s number one at the box office, and a smash hit. It’s the third entry in the Teng Nong/ Nong Teng franchise and this one is about a pilgrim and a wealthy jeweller whose destiny has brought them to meet on a plane, where they encounter some very unexpected events. The formula for your run-of-the-mill Thai comedy – of which this looks to be a prime example – seems to be: Assemble a cast of popular TV and cafe comics, have a grain of an idea for a plot or a genre (horror, romance, or farcical action, or all three), and then say "action!”
Wise Kwai: The movies all look about the same, with the usual cast of comedians who seem to appear in every comedy film.
Shaolin / New Shaolin Temple / เส้าหลิน 2 ใหญ่ / 新少林寺: Hong Kong/ China, Action/ Drama/ Comedy – 2 hrs 11 mins – A story of Shaolin monks who protect and shelter civilians during war, this is a beautifully photographed, finely acted big budget spectacle that doesn't rely on star power and action to deliver the goods, but actually is a thinking man's film on the philosophical aspects of Buddhism. Unfortunately, it’s shown in Thailand only in a Thai-dubbed version. Starring Jackie Chan and Andy Lau. Now at Vista only.
Scheduled for February 24
Black Swan: (Feb 24 is now advertised as the release date for Thailand, but for Chiang Mai? Who knows?) US, Drama/ Romance/ Thriller – 1 hr 48 mins – Follows the story of Nina (Natalie 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. Nominated for best picture of the year, best direction, best actress (Natalie Portman), best cinematography (Matthew Libatique), and editing. Rated R in the US for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language, and some drug use. Generally favorable reviews: 79/82 out of 100.
* = Coming soon (hopefully)
AF = Alliance Française FS = Film Space
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.
No showing on Friday, February 18: Holiday, Makha Bucha Day.
Next regular showing will be on Friday, February 25: 13 m² / 13m2 (2007) by Barthélémy Grossmann – 84 mins – France Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82 out of 100.
With Barthélémy Grossmann, Youssef Hajdi, Thierry Lhermitte, Lucien Jean-Baptiste.
Jose is looking for a way out of his small time banlieue deals. When he overhears a conversation between his girlfriend and his step-brother, he might just have found a very lucrative way. Together with his two best friends, he decides to attack an armored vehicle, full of cash. But everything goes wrong and they're forced into hiding, in a 13 square meters bunker. There, they will have to test their friend-ship, their motivations, as every move outside triggers even more paranoia...
– Alliance description
A first-time directing effort by actor Barthélémy Grossmann, who also wrote the script. After the hold-up of an armored lorry, José, Farouk, and Réza take refuge in a hideout measuring 13m². Shut away with the money and a tarnished conscience, the relationships and personalities of the three friends are revealed with the passing lies and conflicts that this oppressive situation triggers. Each excursion into the real world from now on presents a threat. Will they manage to overcome their fate and make a fresh start?
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
February is “The Month of Musical” 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, February 19, 7 pm: Purple Rain (1984) by Albert Magnoli – 1 hr 51 mins – US, Drama/ Musical/ Romance. Prince stars as 'the Kid' in this semi-autobiographical film of a talented but narcissistic young musician who has a less then stellar home life. He meets an aspiring singer, Apollonia, and finds that talent alone isn't all that he needs. A complicated tale then ensues of his repeating his father's self destructive behavior, his losing Apollonia to another singer, and his coming to grips with his own connection to other people – especially his parents. Rated R in the US for[See Full Rating] adult situations, language, nudity, and violence. Mixed or average reviews: 45/63 out of 100.
Variety, Cynthia Kirk: Playing a character rooted in his own background, and surrounded by the real-life members of his Minneapolis-based musical 'family,' rock star Prince makes an impressive feature film debut in Purple Rain, a rousing contemporary addition to the classic backstage musical genre.
Filmcritic, Don willmott: It isn't much of a movie, but it's one hell of a show.
New Times, Luke Y. Thompson: A classic '80s rock movie, whose soundtrack was perhaps the best album of the decade.
At Film Space Saturday, February 26, 7 pm: Once (2006) by John Carney – 1 hr 25 mins – Ireland, Drama/ Music/ Romance. An (unnamed) Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An (unnamed) Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs. Rated R in the US for language. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88/84 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: A charming, captivating tale of love and music, Once sets the standard for the modern musical. And with Dublin as its backdrop, Once is fun and fresh.
Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan: The music is so rich and completely satisfying and the characters so appealing Once makes us believe that this is all happening right in front of our eyes. We fall for each of these young people at the precise moment they are falling for each other, and what could be better than that?