Oscar time Monday at 8:30 am
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, February 24, 2011
… through Wednesday, March 2
by Thomas Ohlson
This is Issue Number 17 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 this Sunday, February 27 in the US, but next Monday, February 28 early morning here in Thailand. On TrueVisions TV, it’s on live 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 taped rerun on Star Movies: arrivals 7 pm, show 7:30 pm. All on Monday, February 28.
Here are the ten films nominated for best picture. So far we’ve seen four here in Chiang Mai. It’s unfortunate The Fighter did so poorly in Thailand and here in Chiang Mai; it’s truly an excellent film with some not-to-be-missed performances. Hope you caught it.
“Black Swan” – opens today in Thailand, at some Major Cineplexes only, but not here.
“The Fighter” – opened in Chiang Mai Feb 10, two weeks ago, did very poorly. A real shame.
“Inception” – already played here.
“The Kids Are All Right” – not scheduled for Thailand. Because of its theme (lesbians with teenage kids), probably won’t be allowed in.
“The King’s Speech” – now playing, but only at Apex Scala, Siam Square; and SFX Cinema Emporium.
“127 Hours” – now scheduled for Mar 10 for Thailand; don’t know about here.
“The Social Network” – already played here.
“Toy Story” – already played here.
“True Grit” – opens today in Thailand, but not here.
“Winter’s Bone” – not scheduled for Thailand yet. I’m guessing it’s something you wouldn’t want to see anyway.
I’ve seen them all. I promised my pick of the year – 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. This year: Inception. That movie was a marvel. The other “best” for me is the best at old-fashioned storytelling. You know, characters and story. No question, not even close: Toy Story 3. For those not afraid to get emotionally involved, like with laughs and tears. As to what the Academy will choose, that is a nearly pointless question. There’s just no second-guessing what they will do and what factors go into their choices.
I Am Number Four swept into both cinema locations here in Chiang Mai last Friday (a bit out of the ordinary) with a lot of showings. Almost as though it were a Harry Potter or a Twilight or something. And that’s exactly why it’s such a big deal: The whole movie industry is hoping that this movie will start a series – you know: Franchise! – that will sweep audiences off their feet and into their cinemas in droves. And if not all moviegoers, well, they’ll settle for teen-age girls, who alone make up a very lucrative market. In fact, I’ve heard rumors that they will be restricting admission to females under twenty, so take your IDs. That’s so reasonable people won’t see it and say nasty things about it.
It seems it was all for naught: throughout the world the film was met with profound disinterest.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Faster: US, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – 1 hr 38 mins – An ex-con sets out to avenge his brother's death after they were double-crossed during a heist years ago. During his campaign, however, he's tracked by a veteran cop and an egocentric hit man. With Billy Bob Thornton and Maggie Grace. Rated R in the US for strong violence, some drug use, and language. Mixed or average reviews: 44/49 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.)
From all I can gather, and from the previews, it’s looks like unrelenting action, meaning plenty of bloody killings, fights, automobile chases and crashes. And not one bit of anything that makes sense. If this is what you like, go!
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: It's good to see Dwayne Johnson back in full-throttle action mode, but Faster doesn't deliver enough of the high-octane thrills promised by its title.
Roger Ebert: Faster is a pure thriller, all blood, no frills, in which a lot of people get shot, mostly in the head. Rotate the plot, change the period, spruce up the dialogue, and this could have been a hard-boiled 1940s noir. But it doesn't pause for fine touches and efficiently delivers action for an audience that likes one-course meals.
Dwayne Johnson stars in the kind of role he's possibly been avoiding up until now. Once known as The Rock, he has developed a kinder, gentler screen persona that more closely fits him in real life. It's a melancholy fact of Hollywood today that Faster could be a good career move, sending him on the trail blazed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Johnson has very broad shoulders and wicked tattoos, and a gun seems to grow from his hand.
The New York Times, Stephen Holden: Faster, a turgid, ultraviolent parable of revenge and forgiveness, is as muscle-bound as its monosyllabic antihero, Driver (Dwayne Johnson), an indestructible human Superman with a metal plate in his head. Released from prison after serving time for a bank robbery, this high-speed tank runs over anything in his path or shoots it on the spot.
Mr. Johnson, with his Mount Rushmore head and a body so pumped his arms dangle at almost 45-degree angles as he lumbers along, doesn’t exactly act, although at one point, what looks like a tear dribbles down his granite face. A more appropriate word than acting might be embodying. Driver is a walking, talking incarnation of the steroidal dream.
* The Microchip / Chip Hai / ชิป / หาย: Thai, Action/ Comedy – A group of friends try to find a missing microchip which they mistakenly believe is of vast importance and want to return to the owner. Even the people who like it call it cheesy.
* I Am Number Four: (Opened Feb 18) US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 50 mins – Another week, another tale of a teenager with supernatural powers. In I Am Number Four, our hero is neither a vampire nor a wizard, but an alien. With Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, and Dianna Agron. Generally unfavorable reviews: 35/48 out of 100.
Once again, a gifted child descends from a great intergalactic distance to make his home on Mother Earth. Actually, in this arithmetic, there are nine such children, escapees from the planet Lorien and on the lam from their arch-enemies, a band of extraterrestrial baddies known as Mogadorians.
Being baddies, they wear Sergio Leone duster coats and sport tattoos on their heads that would be the envy of Mike Tyson. Anyway, the focus here is on but one of the youthful Loriens, who, in case you hadn’t guessed, ranks Number Four on the hit-list and, in his new earthly digs, chooses to go by the name of John Smith. Apparently, imagination is not one of his superpowers.
We first spot the now teenage John (Alex Pettyfer) and his anxious guardian Henry (Timothy Olyphant) on the sandy beaches of Florida, at least until the “Mogs” pick up their scent, prompting a hasty retreat to yet another hideout. This time it’s to the Midwestern blandness of Ohio, where our lad does what teen aliens typically do in these circumstances – enroll in high school.
Once there, he continues to follow form to the letter: falling in love with Sarah the sensitive girl (Dianna Agron), befriending Sam the science nerd, and taking advantage of the class bullies to hone his inchoate powers. These latter include the standard trope of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, plus something that appears to involve corralling lightning in the palm of his hand and then getting all telekinetic on us.
To this point, director D.J. Caruso manages to ascend to the level of competence, striking a nice balance between the competing genres, keeping the high-school angst almost real and the special effects credibly muted. Competent too are Pettyfer and Agron as the loving principals – they don’t exactly redeem the clichés but do combine to dust them off a little.
But now the climax approaches, and with it the noisy destruction of any balance or moderation (After all, Michael Bay is the producer.)
Critics say the movie has some decent action scenes, but little in the way of memorable characters or original plotting. They say Four rips off just about every other film of its ilk, from Twilight to Harry Potter, without adding much to the formula, though there are a few exciting moments here and there.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: It's positioned as the start of a franchise, but I Am Number Four's familiar plot and unconvincing performances add up to one noisy, derivative, and ultimately forgettable sci-fi thriller...
Roger Ebert: I Am Number Four is shameless and unnecessary. That's sad, when a movie casts aside all shame, demonstrates itself willing to rip off anything that might attract audiences, and nevertheless fails. What we have here is a witless attempt to merge the Twilight formula with the Michael Bay formula. It ends with sexy human teenagers involved in an endless special effects battle with sexy alien teenagers who look like humans, in a high school and on its football field.
Let's pause for a moment to consider this apocalyptic battle. It is all special effects. None of it is physically possible. It might as well be a cartoon; it's essentially CGI animation intercut with brief bursts of inane dialogue. Brief, because the global action market doesn't much care about dialogue, and besides, when people start talking about something you could run into the hazard of having actual characters in a plot. Minute after relentless minute, creatures both human and alien, who we care nothing about, wage war and occasionally disintegrate into clouds of tiny pixels for no particular reason.
I like science fiction. The opening shot of I Am Number Four holds promise, as John (Alex Pettyfer), the narrator, explains that he is a Mogadorian, no doubt from a planet named Mogador. Specifically, he is Mogadorian No. 4. Don't expect me to explain the Mogadorian numbering system. He is hiding out on planet Earth and doing everything possible to disguise himself as a box-office attraction like Edward Cullen. They have already killed Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
John has been on the lam around America to remain in hiding from those who would kill him, and is accompanied b
y his fellow Mogadorian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), who poses as his father and cautions him that his real father didn't die only to see John marry an Earth girl. Whether John has the option of returning to Mogador and settling down with a nice Mogadoress to raise Mogadorlings, I am not certain.
The high school elements in the plot revolve around John's popularity in some areas (he's an ace on a Jet-Ski) and non-conformity in others (his palms function like high-powered searchlights). He is also free of the ordinary constraints of gravity and can leap for dozens of yards and even fly. What this means is that the climactic battle scene can take place largely in the air, and Harry Potter's Quidditch games join the honor roll of the plundered.
There is no doubt a degree of identification available for the primary audience of I Am Number Four. Many teenage girls have perhaps imagined themselves in love with a handsome hunk with tousled blond hair, a three-day stubble, incredible athletic abilities and hands that glow in the dark. That he is Not From Around Here makes him all the more attractive.
Why audiences enjoy watching protracted sequences of senseless action mystifies me, but they do. There is no strategic or spatial way in which the battle in I Am Number Four makes any sense. It is movement and conflict edited together in incomprehensible chaos.
Tri-City Herald, Gary Wolcott : The formula: Take a two-dimensional teen hunk with heartthrob looks, add a love interest and a buddy, and put them in mortal danger. Presto, you are box office bankable..
The Globe and Mail, Rick Groen: Say this for I Am Number Four: It’s blessedly free of any original sins. Instead, they’re all copied. Here a little Superman, there a bit of Spider-Man, now it’s Twilight with aliens, then it’s a spaghetti western with trucks – this thing borrows more heavily than an investment bank in an unregulated market..
The Eagle: (Officially opening today; last week’s evening showings were “previews”) 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. 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.
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 his slave 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.
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.
Panya Raenu / ปัญญา เรณู: Thai, Comedy/ Drama: Panya Raenu is a story of friendship and dreams 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. 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.
USA Today, Claudia Puig: A documentary on the formation of stalagmites would have been more compelling.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin: Operation: Endgame is a film of rare ambition and even rarer miscalculation. 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.
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.
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." 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.
The Green Hornet: 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, and only at Vista.
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 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, be sure to include Mum Jokmok, have a grain of an idea for a plot or a genre (horror, romance, or farcical action, or all three), and then say "action!”
Scheduled for March 3
Tangled / Rapunzel: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Familly – 1 hr 40 mins – After receiving healing powers from a magical flower, the baby Princess Rapunzel is kidnapped from the palace in the middle of the night by wicked Mother Gothel. Mother Gothel knows that the flower's magical powers are now growing within the golden hair of Rapunzel, and to stay young, she must lock Rapunzel in her hidden tower. Rapunzel is now a teenager and her hair has grown to a length of 70 feet. The beautiful Rapunzel has been in the tower her entire life, and she is now curious about the outside world. One day, the bandit Flynn Rider scales the tower and is taken captive by Rapunzel. Rapunzel strikes a deal with the charming thief to act as her guide to travel to the place where the floating lights come from that she has seen every year on her birthday. And thus Rapunzel is about to have the most exciting and magnificent journey of her life. In Disney Digital 3D. Generally favorable reviews: 71/75 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: While far from Disney's greatest film, Tangled is a visually stunning, thoroughly entertaining addition to the studio's classic animated canon.
The Adjustment Bureau: US, Romance/ Thriller/ Sci-Fi – On the brink of winning a seat in the US Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt)-a woman like none he's ever known. But just as he realizes he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself – the men of The Adjustment Bureau – who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path...or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her.
May show up any time
Black Swan: (Opens today in Thailand and may pop up here any time, not necessarily on a Thursday) 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.
The King’s Speech: (Now playing, only at Apex Scala, Siam Square; and SFX Cinema Emporium. But may show up here unannounced) UK/ Australia, Drama/ History – In my view a beautiful motion picture, with everything you could hope for. Oscar nominations for best picture, best director (Tom Hooper), best actor (Colin Firth), best supporting actor (Geoffrey Rush), best supporting actress (Helena Bonham Carter), original screenplay, art direction, cinematography, costume design, editing, original score (Alexandre Desplat), and sound mixing. Tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George ('Bertie') reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded stutter and considered unfit to be king, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88/86 out of 100.
The multi-award-winning cast includes Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall, and Michael Gambon.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Colin Firth gives a masterful performance in The King's, a predictable but stylishly produced and rousing period drama..
True Grit: (Opens today in Thailand and may show up here any time) Drama, Western – I thought Jeff Bridges was a hoot in this; truly enjoyable! Nominated for these Oscars: best picture, direction (Joel and Ethan Coen), actor (Jeff Bridges), supporting actress (Hailee Steinfeld), adapted screenplay, art direction, cinematography, costume design, sound editing, and sound mixing. The story is as in the original: Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross's (Hailee Steinfeld) determines to bring him to justice. Enlisting the help of a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), she sets out with him - over his objections - to hunt down Chaney. Her father’s blood demands that she pursue the criminal into Indian territory and find him before a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) catches him and brings him back to Texas for the murder of another man. Generally favorable reviews: 80/83 out of 100.
And looking forward
Mar 10: 127 Hours: (Scheduled to open in Thailand this date; for Chiang Mai, uncertain) US/ UK, Drama – Sounds grim, but actually not that bloody; the major action is performed with a modicum of taste, in my opinion. And the musical score is a marvel, doing all sorts of things to help you keep things in perspective. Up for the following Oscars: best picture, best actor (James Franco), best adapted screenplay, film editing, original score (the marvelous A.R. Rahman, composer for Slumdog Millionaire), and best original song. This Danny Boyle film, based on true events, features James Franco as hiker Aron Ralston, who becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, scale a 65 foot wall, and hike over eight miles before he is finally rescued. Throughout his journey, Ralston recalls friends, lovers (Clemence Poesy), family, and the two hikers he met before his accident. Will they be the last two people he ever meets? Rated R in the US for language and some disturbing violent content/ bloody images. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82/82 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: As gut-wrenching as it is inspirational, 127 Hours unites one of Danny Boyle's most beautifully exuberant directorial efforts with a terrific performance from James Franco.
* = 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.
On Friday, February 25: 13 m² / 13m2 (2007) by Barthélémy Grossmann – 84 mins – France, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. Black and white. English subtitles.
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?
Films de France, Synopsis: José, Farouk and Réza are three young men from a rough area of Paris. For them, life is hard and increasingly precarious as they are drawn further and further into crime just to survive. One day, they attack an armoured van and run off with a sack load of cash. The robbery hasn’t gone quite as planned and the three friends end up taking refuge in a cramped hide out, where they intend to stay until things have quietened down. The period of confinement soon begins to take its toll on the three men and it becomes apparent that their real enemy is not the police but each other...
Films de France, Review, James Travers: 13m2 is the latest in a seemingly endless series of films over the past decade or so to thrust into our faces stark visions of the ugly underbelly of French society, reminding us that, despite numerous political initiatives, things are not getting better for those at the bottom of the heap. It has been well over a decade since Mathieu Kassovitz woke us all up to the escalating problems of social exclusion and racial tensions in inner cities with his startling film La Haine (1995), but these problems haven’t gone away and seem only to have worsened – or so the latest generation of hot-headed young filmmakers will have us believe.
The hot-headed youngster behind this latest grim portrait of social deprivation and urban crime is Barthélémy Grossmann, who not only directs the film but also plays the leading role. In what is his debut film, Grossmann shows great promise both as a director and an actor, and succeeds admirably in capturing the bleakness of the lives of those unfortunates who have become, through no fault of their own, vermin that live off the putrid dregs of a soulless capitalist system.
The film has one or two touches of brilliance (such as the idea of letting us hear but not see the brutal robbery) but equally there are some careless artistic over-indulgences that cause you to grind your teeth in frustration (the over-use of fancy camera effects such as the fast zoom being a case in point). 13m2 is by no means perfect but it does provide a sobering reflection on the corrupting influence of money, as well as a reminder of the fractured society that raw capitalism and countless failed government policies have give us.
On Friday, March 4: Jour de fête / The Big Day / Holiday (1949) by Jacques Tati – 79 mins – France, Comedy. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82 out of 100.
With Jacques Tati, Paul Frankeur, Guy Decomble, Santa Relli, Maine Vallée.
François, an easily-distracted French mailman who frequently interrupts his duties to converse with the local inhabitants, as well as inspect the traveling fair that has come to his small community. Influenced by too much wine and a newsreel account of rapid transportation methods used by the United States postal system, he goes to hilarious lengths to speed the delivery of mail while aboard his bicycle.
– Alliance description
All Movie Guide, Paul Brenner: In Jacques Tati's charming -- and essentially plotless -- pre-Hulot first feature, Tati is Francois, a contented and happy postman in a small, unhurried French village. Francois is at ease with his job and leisurely performs his duties, peddling away on his rounds upon his beloved bicycle. Things perk up when a traveling carnival arrives in town. One of the attractions at the carnival is a film depicting the United States Postal Service's fast and efficient postal delivery system. The narrator in the film exhorts, Rapidite, rapidite. Francois takes up the call, and attempts to Americanize his work style.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
February is “The Month of Musical” at Film Space. March, “The Month of True Story.”
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 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?
Metromix, Brett Buckalew: The Irish musical Once can easily be classified as a small movie. It was made independently, shot in a grainy, handheld style and its boy-meets-girl narrative is a model of simplicity.
However, beneath its deceptively modest exterior, the film conveys such acute feelings of hurt, longing and hope that it emerges as "big" in the way that counts most—as a singular emotional experience that lingers sweetly in heart and mind long after the closing credits.
Much of the movie's power derives from its achingly sincere musical sequences. Unlike conventional
musical numbers, the songs in Once are realistically woven into the story. But they still have an ability to express desires that the characters dare not voice in dialogue.
The story's central guy-and-girl pair—referred to in the credits as simply "Guy" and "Girl"—are already romantically committed when they meet. Guy (Glen Hansard, lead singer for the Frames), a Dublin street performer, still carries a torch for an ex-girlfriend now dwelling in London. Girl (musician Marketa Irglova), a Czech immigrant who has a real talent for playing the piano, is waiting for her husband to move over and help her take care of their daughter
But Guy and Girl soon embark upon a musical collaboration miraculous in its creative harmony as director John Carney—a former member of the Frames himself—strikes a pointed contrast between the hopelessness of lower-class existence and the transcendence of music.
The transcendent force of love also fuels the film through the priceless chemistry of Hansard and Irglova. When their characters perform a duet, it becomes clear that Guy and Girl's interest in each other goes beyond the professional.
Once may be small, but seeing the two stars wail repressed feelings in song packs a visceral kick beyond any summer blockbuster action sequence.
Roger Ebert: Once was shot for next to nothing in 17 days, doesn't even give names to its characters, is mostly music with not a lot of dialog, and is magical from beginning to end. It's one of those films where you hold your breath, hoping it knows how good it is, and doesn't take a wrong turn. It doesn't. Even the ending is the right ending, the more you think about it.
March is “The Month of True Story.”
At Film Space Saturday, March 5, 7 pm: Before Night Falls (2000) by Julian Schnabel– 2 hrs13 mins –US, Biography/ Drama. An episodic look at the life of Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990), from his childhood in Oriente province to his death in New York City.He joins Castro's rebels. By 1964, he is in Havana. He meets the wealthy Pepe, an early lover; a love-hate relationship lasts for years. Openly gay behavior is a way to spite the government. His writing and homosexuality get him into trouble: he spends two years in prison, writing letters for other inmates and smuggling out a novel. He befriends Lázaro Gomes Garriles, with whom he lives stateless and in poverty in Manhattan after leaving Cuba in the Mariel boat-lift. When asked why he writes, he replies cheerfully, "Revenge."Starring Javier Bardem in the title role (as an adult), and a raft of gifted actors in the extraordinarily large cast of characters from this man’s life, including roles taken by Johnny Depp and Sean Penn. In English, Spanish, French, and Russian. Rated R in the US for strong sexual content, some language, and brief violence. Reviews: Universal acclaim:85/76 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: An impressionistic, fragmented look at Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls' imagery manages to evoke a sense of the writer's artistry, and Bardem's strong performance holds the film together. Finally, a biopic done well.
San Francisco Chronicel, Edward Guthmann: It's an horrific and tragic story, but somehow made beautiful through the care and attention of Schnabel's direction and Bardem's tender, unforgettable performance.