A reptilian lawman comes to town
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, March 10, 2011
… through Wednesday, March 16
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: The Adjustment Bureau. Rango. Unknown. Rapunzel. Solitary Man. Biutiful. 127 Hours (when it shows).
To Avoid like the Plague: Just Go with It.
New Sheriff in town!
This newssheet is also online! Go to:
This is Issue Number 19 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.]
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* 127 Hours: (No, not here yet. Scheduled for today, but didn’t show; I have a feeling and am hopeful that it will show up any day now – tomorrow, Saturday, who knows?) US/ UK, Drama – You do want to see this, believe me! It’s fantastic! 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. It was nominated 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, in the United States. 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, 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. (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.)
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.
* Rango: US, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family/ Western – Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff. Directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp, it’s the first full-length work of animation created by the special-effects company Industrial Light & Magic. Generally favorable reviews: 75/76 out of 100 – but from reading what the reviews actually say, you’d think it was universal acclaim! Not in 3D!
Unlike the usual practice in animation of having the actors come in individually to record their parts alone in a room with a microphone, Director Gore Verbinski here had the actors dress the part and actually act out the scenes in ensemble. Here’s part of an interview with him talking about that process.
Q. Why did you go that route?
A. I guess fear, really. Fear of a microphone and a cold environment and nobody’s reacting to anybody. We didn’t want a performance that was too clean. If people are running, I want to hear them out of breath in the next line when they stop and talk.
Q. What was that like for the actors?
A. You show up in dress clothes, there are some props. There’s no lighting, there’s no dolly. You’re doing 10 pages a day. I think that’s very frustrating for actors who are used to doing movies where you do one line, you go back to your trailer for two hours, you come back out and you do another line. At first it’s a shock, and then it’s incredibly liberating.
Q. Was Rango ever planned to be released in 3-D?
A. You could write a book on that one. We went through the whole process. I even presented some tests in 3-D. But we had a limited budget, putting all our resources into finishing the film. Any discussion about 3-D would have had to be done the right way. I wasn’t going to convert it. So there were battles there, as you can imagine. I was never going to convert this movie.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Rango is a smart, giddily creative burst of beautifully animated entertainment.
Morrow McLaughlin: It’s hard to describe how well Depp does Rango. It’s so good, it’s a bit scary – like this may be the most talented individual on the planet.
Roger Ebert: Rango is some kind of a miracle: An animated comedy for smart moviegoers, wonderfully made, great to look at, wickedly satirical, and (gasp!) filmed in glorious 2-D.
* Solitary Man: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – 1 hr 30 mins – A car magnate watches his personal and professional life hit the skids because of his business and romantic indiscretions. Brilliant character study by Michael Douglas. Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content; 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews: 69/69 out of 100. At Vista only.
In the cast is Jesse Eisenberg, in a portrayal earlier than his outstanding depiction of the Facebook founder in The Social Network.
The story: Ben Kalman is aging: he has heart problems, his marriage is over, he's lost a fortune after being caught cutting corners in his East Coast car business, and he's sleeping with as many women as possible - the younger the better. He's chosen his current girlfriend, Jordan, because her father can help him get a new auto dealership; she's asked him to escort her daughter, Allyson, 18, on a visit to a Boston college campus. He behaves badly, and there are consequences to his love life, his finances, and his relationship with his daughter and grandson. Is there anywhere he can turn?
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Built around a singularly unpleasant main character, Solitary Man needed a flawless central performance to succeed -- and Michael Douglas delivers.
Roger Ebert: Reading in the gossip sheets that Douglas in years past was led astray by lust, we suspect that some of his performance is based on experience. Why is a man a serial seducer? To prove to himself that he can, which to a woman is not a compelling reason to be seduced.
This is a smart, effective film, a comedy in many ways even though it's bookended with reasons for Ben to see it as a potential tragedy. It's a serious comedy, perceptive, nuanced, with every supporting performance well-calibrated to demonstrate to Ben that he can run but he can no longer hide. Here is one of Michael Douglas' finest performances.
The New York Times, A. O. Scott: Mr. Douglas is a charming and slippery actor who specializes, naturally enough, in impersonating charming and slippery men. After Wall Street and Wonder Boys, he could have played Ben Kalmen in his sleep, but instead he is fully alive, as engaged with the complexities of actorly portraiture as he has ever been. Ben, for all his manifold flaws, is never dishonest — his mistake is to place a higher value on candor than he does on decency — and Mr. Douglas never hits a false note. It may not be easy to like this solitary man. It may be impossible. But by the end of this trim and satisfying movie, you know him.
Time Out New York, David Fear: A truly impressive portrait of self-destructive, smooth-talking alpha males, and a testament to an actor who waltzes across that Peter Pan–syndrome tightrope with the greatest of sleaze.
* Red Riding Hood: US/ Canada, Fantasy/ Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 1 hr 40 mins – Set in a medieval village that is haunted by a werewolf, a young girl falls for an orphaned woodcutter, much to her family's displeasure. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (the first Twilight, and Thirteen), starring Amanda Seyfried, Julie Christie, and Gary Oldman. Generally unfavorable reviews: 29/30 out of 100.
Brian Orndorf: Truly dreadful...Hardwicke hasn't offered a competent directorial effort to date, with Hood a new low for the filmmaker. Not only is the feature a total eyesore, but one perfectly content to pilfer from a fad.
Emanuel Levy: Hardwicke's blatantly Twilight-esque revamping of the popular fable succeeds only as a nonsensical and offensive grab for more teen dollars.
Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy: A film of grimm banality, Red Riding Hood puts a bloodthirsty Twilight spin on a fairy tale already possessed of an unusually macabre climax. As it thuds along from one wolf attack to the next, Catherine Hardwicke's first film since taking leave of Bella and her toothy friends adamantly refuses to provide any wit, humor or fun, concerning itself mostly with the heroine's taxing dilemma of picking between the rural village's two best looking boys.
Red Riding Hood is in the vanguard of what appears to be an onslaught of live-action fairy tale-derived studio features over the next year or so. What triggered this trend remains unclear, but one can only hope that the level of cleverness and invention improves, as things hardly get off to an inspired start here.
Restricting the action almost entirely to a small Ruritanian community where everyone but the visiting Gary Oldman speaks in mundane American accents, the script by David Leslie Johnson (Orphan) pivots on two central creative ploys — to turn a mere wolf into a werewolf and to transform the ancient story into a whodunnit in which the lovely young Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) must figure out who among the locals nocturnally mutates into the massive black hound that killed her sister and converses to her, hoping she'll run away with it.
Unfortunately, the context here is hokier than in any of the director's previous films and, as she's not a stylist or genre specialist, she has little to bring to this sort of material other than a natural empathy for the lead character. The dialogue exchanges possess no spark, the action is indifferently covered by random camera moves and cuts and the only jolts are provoked by cheap shock-cuts to the growling or roaring wolf.
The Vancouver-shot production, mostly confined to a studio set, has a rather dreary look spiced here and there by unusual production and costume design details that lend modern touches.
OK! Magazine, Phil Villarreal: Here's hoping Hardwicke can top this masterpiece with her inevitable adaptation of Jack Jumps Over the Candlestick.
* Hug Na Sarakam / ฮักนะ สารคาม: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – “Set in a northeast province of Thailand called Maha Sarakham, Hug Na Sarakam is a romantic-comedy that tells the variety of love and complicated relationship among teenagers who fall in love.” (Film promotion)
Wise Kwai: Transvestite indie filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, director of the banned social drama Insects in the Backyard, goes commercial with her latest effort, Hak Na Sarakham (ฮักนะ 'สารคาม).
Produced by Sahamongkol Film International, it's a sunny comedy about the love lives of youngsters in Maha Sarakham, a predominantly rural province in the culturally distinct region of Thailand's northeast known as Isaan. The result is a countryside ode that might perhaps recall the classic 1970 romance Monrak Lukthung.
Tanwarin talked a bit about the movie in an interview with BK magazine:
"My identity won’t change if I do a big studio movie, like Hak Na Sarakham. I will do the movie that both the studio and I want. I won’t take their money and just what do I want, like some directors. That’s disgusting. I can do what I like in my self-funded movies."
Impish comedienne "Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom stars, playing the upperclassman mentor to some of the schoolkids who in reality are perhaps nearly half her age.
Kong Rithdee: Hak Na Sarakram (Love at Sarakram) is a romantic comedy about Isan teenagers in the province of Maha Sarakham. The cast sports Korean hairstyles, stylish clothes - not unlike Siam Square teenagers - and they engage in romantic shenanigans that have nothing to do with the sorry image of pitiable farmers. The director (Tanwarin Sukkapisit, whose previous film about a cross-dressing father was banned by the Culture Ministry) was born and grew up in the northeastern province of Korat, and in this bigger-budget flick aimed at a mass audience, he set out to change the image of the region he knows well.
"A film like Son of the Northeast recorded Isan as it was then. I believe, though, that Isan has changed, and I don't want to present those stereotypical images. There are different Isans. And in the film, I want to show the one that has updated itself to the global trend and to the culture that exists today, not from decades ago."
Notice the difference of opinion in the above two articles on the sex of the director: Wise Kwai calls Tanwarin Sukkhapisit a female, Kong Rithdee, a male. Just one of the amusing difficulties about living in Thailand.
* The Unborn Child/ Sop Dek / ศพเด็ก 2002: Thai, Horror/ Mystery – “Inspired by true story, the film revolves around a woman who is unintentionally pregnant but couldn't afford the life of her infant. Then she decides to do an abortion which changes her life into a series of nightmares as she is haunted by the vengeful ghost of her own unborn child.” (From the producers) Directed by Poj Arnon (Bangkok Love Story, Hor Taew Tak).
Wise Kwai: Poj Arnon makes a movie out of the abortion scandal
Opportunistic showman Poj Arnon seizes upon last November's aborted fetuses scandal for his latest ripped-from-the-headlines movie, Dek Phee Du 2002 Sop (เด็กผีดุ 2002 ศพ, 2002: The Unborn Child).
The scandal erupted at the discovery of illegally aborted fetuses at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok. First a few hundred were found, but the number grew to more than 2,000. Undertakers had stored the fetuses there for cremation, but the temple's crematorium broke down, and the resulting stench had neighbors complaining.
Rescue teams pulled the fetuses out of the numbered compartments at the temple, bagged them up and laid them out on the ground for newspaper photographers and TV cameramen to capture. The sea of little corpses made for compelling photos. Similar images are used in Poj's movie.
The discovery of the fetuses resulted in a crackdown on illegal abortion clinics and gave rise to much discussion about Thailand's abortion laws.
On what side of the issue does Dek Phee Du 2002 Sop stand? Like most Thai horror movies, I supposed it comes down to karma.
Somchai Kemklad stars in the movie. He plays a crime reporter, married to a high-school teacher, portrayed by "May" Pitchanart Sakakorn. The happy couple have a young daughter, and the little girl starts seeing ghostly little playmates, which are apparently tied to an abortion had by one of the teacher's students. Soon their lives become a living hell.
For a refresher on what the scandal was all about, click here.
* Just Go with It: US, Comedy/ Romance – 1 hr 57 mins – On a weekend trip to Hawaii, a plastic surgeon convinces his loyal assistant to pose as his soon-to-be-divorced wife in order to cover up a careless lie he told to his much-younger girlfriend. Generally unfavorable reviews: 33/37 out of 100. This is in “preview” mode this week, meaning that it doesn’t really open until next Thursday, and this week there are “previews” shown only after 8 pm. At Airport Plaza only.
Those readers who have been with me for awhile, or have read the article on me in this month’s Citylife Magazine, know that I really try not to be too judgmental about the movies I write about, but simply try to hook up viewers to those movies they might like to see. However, movies like this one test my resolve. I can find nothing good to say about an Adam Sandler film, and I have no intention of ever seeing one again. I saw the last one, Grown Ups, and I was simply embarrassed to be from the same country as Sandler, and mortified to be a member of the same human race. From all I’ve read, and from watching the previews, I gather this one is more of the same. Let me strain myself and say that if you enjoy (I’m not sure “enjoy” is the right word) Adam Sandler’s movies, you might like this one as well.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: May be slightly better than some entries in the recently dire rom-com genre, but that's far from a recommendation.
Slate, Dana Stevens: A comedy so noxious it seems the product of deliberate malignity. Surely the sour, vapid, miserable world of this movie can't reflect any real human being's notion of what love or humor or good storytelling is — not even a Hollywood screenwriter's.
Washington Post, Ann Hornaday: An egregiously unfunny enterprise that seem less crafted than extruded through the great product-mill that is Hollywood at its most homogenized and soulless.
Rolling Stone, Dennis Dugan: A romcom with little rom and even less com, Just Go With It returns Adam Sandler to his fascination with kids, poop and mammary glands. Oh joy! Sandler house director Dennis Dugan indulges the boss' obsessions as the sound of jokes dying fills the multiplex. Don't even think of going with it. It's the perfect Valentine's date night movie, but only with someone you hate.
Rapunzel / Tangled (3D): US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family – 1 hr 40 mins – For some reason, this film is known as Tangled in the US and Rapunzel here. The beautiful princess Rapunzel has been in a tower her entire life, and she is now curious about the outside world. One day, a bandit scales the tower and is taken captive by Rapunzel. She strikes a deal with the charming thief to act as her guide to the outside world. I at Airport Plaza, 2D at Vista. 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.
Globe and Mail, Jennie Punter: Tangled, Disney’s 50th animated feature, is glorious-looking, action-packed, and laugh-rippled, with a few fine story-advancing musical numbers. It’s a lively rendition of Rapunzel that swaps the social status of the two romantic protagonists, turns the old evil hag into a svelte passive-aggressive mother-type and adds two new animal characters (a cute chameleon who perches like so many twittering birds in cartoons of yore, and a fearless cop horse with the tenacity of a sniffer dog) that only Disney animators could so memorably portray.
The painterly look of hand-drawn animation from Disney’s first golden era and the physicality of the best swashbuckling adventure films of that same time are delivered with the latest techniques in camera positioning, editing, special effects and 3-D to enhance the action to heart-pounding effect, underline gag,s and create romance.
Biutiful: US, Drama – 2 hrs 28 mins – Javier Bardem was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his performance in this film, the first time that a performance entirely in the Spanish language has been nominated for the best actor award. This is a story of a man in free fall. On the road to redemption, darkness lights his way. Connected with the afterlife, Uxbal is a tragic hero and father of two who's sensing the danger of death. He struggles with a tainted reality and a fate that works against him in order to forgive, for love, and forever. Rated R in the US for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity, and drug use. Mixed or average reviews: 58/64 out of 100. At Vista only, in Spanish, with English and Thai subtitles.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Javier Bardem's searing performance helps to elevate Biutiful, as does Alejandro González Iñárritu's craftsmanship, but the film often lapses into contrivance and grimness.
Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt: Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful is a gorgeous, melancholy tone poem about love, fatherhood and guilt. Some scenes are absolutely wrenching to behold. Others hit home with a punch to the solar plexus. Spain -- and Barcelona to be specific -- has beckoned forth the wistful poet in the Mexican-born filmmaker. His response to this summons is a film that, while about death, is teeming with life in all its tangled messiness.
Box Office, Pete Hammond: Biutiful, which gets its name from a child's misspelling, is in itself a beautiful, mesmerizing film—and Iñárritu‘s masterpiece.
The Adjustment Bureau: US, Romance/ Thriller/ Sci-Fi – 1 hr 45 mins – 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. Mixed or average reviews: 57/61 out of 100.
Empire, Helen O'Hara: The themes of screenwriter George Nolfi’s first feature film as director will delight philosophers. Does free will exist, or are we travelling along pre-determined paths — and if so, who determines them, and to what extent? Where does chance end and design begin? Can we fight Fate? Luckily for us, Nolfi’s execution will excite everyone else, for this metaphysical love story/thriller manages the very difficult trick of remaining intriguingly intelligent while unfailingly placing entertainment well ahead of explanation.
In other words, the script merrily skips any laboured exposition on exactly who — or what — the ubiquitous shady men in the sharp suits and anachronistic hats are. It positively sprints past any lengthy monologues establishing why they do what they do — and, for that matter, barely lingers on the “what” they’re doing. There’s a suggestion that the Adjusters may be angels, which would certainly explain their Wings Of Desire-esque propensity for standing on rooftops wearing overcoats, and there’s mention of a Chairman with a Plan, but it’s never particularly dissected. All the better, since it’s in establishing the detail that brain-bending thrillers like this tend to fall apart.
Instead, we experience The Adjustment Bureau as does the film’s protagonist David Norris (Matt Damon): as a strange and all-powerful force twisting events to its own ends. It’s Inception for romantics, a love story told through the medium of science-fiction — or maybe not; it’s hard to peg this by genre. By keeping the pace quick, the explanation light and the characters strong, Nolfi achieves the near-impossible: a film puzzle you won’t mind leaving unexplained.
Unknown: US/ Germany/ France/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – 1 hr 53 mins – There seems to be a heap of disparagement dumped on this film, for being derivative and way too unbelievable. It’s true, but I found it easy to overlook those things and enjoy an interesting film with interesting actors and weird but wonderful situations. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, but then in general I enjoy the whole experience of a movie. I enjoy watching good actors do their thing, and I find Liam Neeson fascinating in this film. Not to mention turns by two of the greatest actors working in films today, or any other time: Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella. Mixed or average reviews: 56/58 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Lately, Liam Neeson has a thing for European intrigue. He journeyed to Paris to rescue his daughter in 2009's Taken, and now he heads to Berlin for Unknown, a twisty thriller that critics say undermines its strong premise with implausible plotting. Neeson stars as a man who falls into a coma after a car accident; when he awakens, he discovers his wife (January Jones) doesn't recognize him, and he's being targeted by shadowy forces. The pundits say Neeson and an expert supporting cast help keep Unknown watchable, but ultimately, the unlikely story and excessive action set pieces keep it from truly soaring.
Salon, Andrew O’Hehir: What you get in Unknown is a stylish and muscular thriller with some nifty twists and turns, a wicked sense of humor, several terrific performances and not one or even two but three of the best car chases in recent action-flick history. My task here is to convince you that Unknown is pretty damn good without totally overselling a film that admittedly mashes up totally familiar ingredients: a good-looking guy, an icy blonde, a missing briefcase, a car accident, a faintly sinister European city and some bad guys in a black SUV. This is a studio thriller released in February, people, not the second coming of Hitchcock. Keep your expectations reasonable and director Jaume Collet-Serra will exceed them, delivering an exciting and unjaded entertainment with tremendous atmosphere, one that will keep you guessing almost to the final frame.
Love Julinsee Rak Man Yai Mak / เลิฟ จุลินทรีย์ รักมันใหญ่ มาก: Thai, Drama/ Romance – Squeaky-clean teen love during a music festival.
Space Battleship Yamato: Japan, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Sci-Fi – 2 hrs 11 mins – In 2199, five years after the Gamilons began an invasion of Earth, the planet has been ravaged by the aliens' bombs. The remnants of humanity have fled underground to escape the irradiated surface. One day, former pilot Susumu Kodai discovers a capsule sent from the planet Iscandar that tells of a device that can remove the radiation from the Earth's surface. The Earth Defense Force rebuilds the battleship Yamato with a new type of propulsion system to make the 148,000 light year trip to Iscandar in hopes of saving the Earth. Within one year, the radiation will drive the rest of humanity to extinction. At Vista only, in Japanese, with English and Thai subtitles.
Japan Times, Mark Schilling: The Space Battleship Yamato franchise, known abroad under such titles as "Star Blazers" and "Space Cruiser Yamato," began life in 1974 as a TV cartoon space opera, then generated a hit animated film in 1977. Two more TV series and four more films followed, concluding the saga with the 1983 feature Final Yamato.
Hype over Takashi Yamazaki's live-action film Space Battleship Yamato has been building in Japan and abroad since it was announced in the summer of 2009. One reason was the ¥2 billion budget, a huge amount for a Japanese film, much of which has been lavished on effects.
But for the local audience, especially, the biggest draw is star Takuya Kimura, who has been voted the most popular male entertainer and sexiest man in show business/ Japan/ the universe in poll after poll since his rise to the top with the pop group SMAP in the early 1990s.
Space Battleship Yamato is accordingly one of Japan’s biggest domestic releases this year. Yamazaki, working with scriptwriter Shimako Sato (a director in her own right who also happens to be Yamazaki's wife), has made a film that is good, uncomplicated fun for kids, and with plenty of CG spectacle and thrills (if not in the ever-more common 3-D).
I Am Number Four: US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 50 mins – Teenager John is apparently an average high school student. Ah, but one can be deceived! He’s really a secret alien on the run. Taking a little of this and that from ten or so recent teen-oriented franchises, this movie hopes to start another series that will sweep audiences off their feet and into cinemas in droves. And if not all moviegoers, at least teen-age girls, who alone make up a very lucrative market. Thus the lead is taken by Alex Pettyfer, yet another lean and comely Brit with moody charisma in the Robert Pattinson vein. I found it okay with nice touches and mildly provocative situations, and mostly enjoyable until producer Michael Bay’s destructive impulses take over at the violent end. An adaptation of a best selling young adult sci-fi novel written by Jobie Hughes and James Frey and published under the pen name Pittacus Lore, who identifies himself as an alien (in the planetary sense). The fewer movies you’ve seen, the better you’ll like this one. Generally unfavorable reviews: 36/44 out of 100.
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.
Hanamizuki / Flowering Dogwood Tree /ハナミズキ: Japan, Drama – 2 hrs 8 mins – A movie based on the song Hanamizuki by Yō Hitoto released in 2004 and very popular in Japan, as is this film. Ill-fated love, what else? At Vista only. It’s in Japanese, with Thai and English subtitles.
The Reel Bits, Richard Gray: One of the bigger productions for the Japanese film industry this year – with filming taking place in Hokkaido, Canada and New York – it has also been a box office hit in its native Japan.
Hanamizuki is not going to be for all tastes, and the words “date movie” spring to mind almost immediately. Hanamizuki is a sweet, if not especially memorable, romance story that never truly distinguishes itself from the crowd. Director Doi Nobuhiro, coming largely from a television background, adds little flair to proceedings, nor does he have much of a voice in this fairly by-the-numbers production. Fans of straight romance stories won’t care and have a packet of tissues ready to roll from the outset.
May show up any time
The King’s Speech: (Now playing, but not here. 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: (Playing in Thailand now and may show up here any time) Drama, Western – I thought Jeff Bridges was a hoot in this; truly enjoyable! Nominated for these Oscars (but didn’t win a one): 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.
* = 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, March 11, 8 pm: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot / Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953) by Jacques Tati – 1 hr 54 mins – France, Comedy. In black and white. No English subtitles, but you don’t really need them. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 90 out of 100.
With Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Michèle Rolla, Valentine Camax, Louis Perrault.
Mr. Hulot goes on a holiday to a seaside resort, but accidents and misunderstandings follow him wherever he goes. The peace and quiet of the hotel guests don't last very long with Hulot around, because although his intentions are good, they always turn out catastrophically...
– Alliance description
Variety: Tati is the semi-articulate, blundering, but well-meaning clown, reminiscent of the early Mack Sennett types. Whether he is being chased by dogs, setting off a cabin full of fireworks, or blundering into a staid funeral, he is a very funny man.
Roger Ebert: The first time I saw Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday, I didn't laugh as uch as I thought I was supposed to. But I didn't forget the film, and I saw it again in a film class, and then bought the laserdisc and saw it a third and fourth time, and by then it had become part of my treasure. But I still didn't laugh as much as I thought I was supposed to, and now I think I understand why.
It is not a comedy of hilarity but a comedy of memory, nostalgia, fondness, and good cheer. There are some real laughs in it, but Mr. Hulot's Holiday gives us something rarer, an amused affection for human nature--so odd, so valuable, so particular.
The movie was released in 1953, and played for months, even years, in art cinemas. It was a small film that people recommend to each other. There was a time when any art theater could do a week's good business just by booking Hulot. Jacques Tati (1908-1982) made only four more features in the next 20 years, much labored over, much admired, but this is the film for which he'll be remembered.
Films de France, James Travers: Having established himself as a director and comic performer in Jour de fête, Jacques Tati won international acclaim with his next film, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot. The film won a brace of awards across the globe, not least of which the Prix de la Critique at Cannes in 1953 and the Prix Louis Delluc 1953. Significantly, the film introduced the character of Monsieur Hulot, Tati’s alter-ego, who would feature in most of his subsequent films.
An extraordinary mélange of slapstick comedy (often veering towards the surreal) and visual poetry, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot paints a portrait of French middle-class life which is both charming and cruel. It shows not only Tati’s flair for comedy (which is virtually unsurpassed in French cinema) but also his particular talent for observation. There is so much detail and content in this film that it is impossible to take it all in and appreciate Tati’s genius by watching the film just once. Like all great masterpieces it demands much closer scrutiny to see the skill of the great creative force behind it (the same applies equally to Tati’s subsequent films, notably Mon Oncle and Playtime).
In common with much of Tati’s work, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot has an oblique autobiographical side to it - the film appears to say as much about the observer (i.e. Tati himself) as the observed. On the surface, the film is a cheerful satire on the French bourgeois holiday, principally concerned with mocking well-to-do ladies with their absurd hats and quaint double standards. On closer examination, other facets begin to emerge and the film appears more melancholic more despairing, than comic. Abandoned children become more noticeable, Hulot appears a much more solitary individual, and even that funny English lady takes on a tragic dimension. It would be stretching it perhaps to say that Tati intended this film to be about the suffering of the human soul, but inescapable loneliness is a recurring theme. The soundtrack is strangely divorced from the images, giving the film an odd dream-like, existentialist feel. It is as if the film were being seen in retrospect, from a distance, perhaps by Hurlot recalling the happier times in his life...
Whatever Tati’s intentions, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot is a remarkable and hugely original piece of cinema, quite different to anything else at the time and since. The seemingly endless stream of visual jokes are brilliantly realised and have a timeless quality which ensure that the film will continue to entertain future generations. And for those who want to go beyond the veneer of comic routines and perhaps divine something of Tati’s inner soul, this singular cinematic postcard has a great deal more to offer.
On Friday, March 18, 8 pm: Pierrot le fou / Pierrot Goes Wild / Crazy Pete (1965) by Jean-Luc Godard – 110 mins – France/ Italy, Crime/ Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 73 out of 100.
With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Dirk Sanders, Graziella Galvani, Raymond Devos.
Ferdinand meets an old love, Marianne. But at her place, they fall upon a cumbersome corpse. They then decide to flee the killers through France to an island where they might be safe… One of Jean-Paul Belmondo’s best roles in this “Nouvelle Vague” film.
– Alliance description
Pierrot (Jean-Paul Belmondo) escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by hit-men from Algeria. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
March is “The Month of True Story” 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, March 12, 7 pm: The Last King of Scotland (2006) by Kevin Macdonald – 2 hrs – UK, Biography/ Drama/ History/ Thriller. In an incredible twist of fate, a Scottish doctor (James McAvoy) on a Ugandan medical mission becomes irreversibly entangled with one of the world's most barbaric figures: Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). Impressed by Dr. Garrigan's brazen attitude in a moment of crisis, the newly self-appointed Ugandan President Amin hand picks him as his personal physician and closest confidante. Though Garrigan is at first flattered and fascinated by his new position, he soon awakens to Amin's savagery - and his own complicity in it. Horror and betrayal ensue as Garrigan tries to right his wrongs and escape Uganda alive Rated R in the US for some strong violence and gruesome images, sexual content, and language.. Generally favorable reviews: 74/74 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Forest Whitaker's performance as real-life megalomaniac dictator Idi Amin powers this fictionalized political thriller, a blunt and brutal tale about power and corruption.
Newsweek, David Ansen: Forest Whitaker, uncorking the power that he usually holds in check, gives a chilling, bravura performance as Ugandan tyrant Idi Amin, whose bloody regime slaughtered more than 300,000 people. This intelligent, sometimes gruesome thriller is based on a novel by Giles Foden.
San Francisco Chronicle, Ruthie Stein: This is spellbinding entertainment, filled with unexpected moments of levity that almost make you feel guilty laughing at the antics of a tyrant. They're like the "Springtime for Hitler" number with no singing and dancing. When Amin becomes convinced that he's been poisoned (an early indication of his paranoia) and demands medical attention in the middle of the night, Nicholas correctly diagnoses severe flatulence and has his patient relieve the symptoms by bending over a stick held tightly against his pot belly.
Director Kevin Macdonald, whose previous experience is limited to documentaries, skillfully brings Last King to life, bathing the landscape in pastels and capturing the joviality of the Ugandan people despite the hardships they endure. Screenwriters Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock do a splendid job of adapting Giles Foden's award-winning novel, rarely resorting to the sort of annoying voiceover that makes a movie sound like a book on tape.
All of this is in service of a truly astonishing screen performance. Followers of Whitaker's career (his heartbreaking vulnerability as the doomed soldier in The Crying Game becomes more memorable with time) knew he had it in him, given material worthy of his talent.
He starts out playing Amin as a cuddly clown, his large body shaking with mirth, only gradually showing glimpses of the madman within. The laugh goes on too long or the look in his eyes abruptly turns malevolent. The red and gold brocade of his military uniform brings out his imperiousness.
Like most dictators, Amin is a champion seducer, whether of the masses, who believe his claim that he only wants to help them, or of individuals like Nicholas. Whitaker makes these seduction scenes palpable. Unlike Sean Penn's demagogue in All the King's Men, you're able to forget that Whitaker is acting. He embodies the role. When clips of the real Amin are shown at the end, it's almost shocking to realize the extent to which Whitaker has become him.
At Film Space Saturday, March 19, 7 pm: The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) by Walter Salles – 2 hrs 8 mins – US/ UK/ Argentina/ Chile/ Peru/ Brazil/ Germany/ France, Adventure/ Biography/ Drama. The dramatization of a motorcycle road trip Che Guevara went on in his youth that showed him his life's calling. Won BAFTA best non-English film 2005. Rated R in the US for language. In Spanish, Quechua, and Mapudungun, with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 76/76 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: The Motorcycle Diaries is heartfelt and profound in its rendering of the formative experiences that turn Ernesto "Che" Guerva into a famous revolutionary.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: In 1952, two young Argentines, Ernesto Guevara, and Alberto Granado, set out on a road trip to discover the real Latin America. Ernesto is a 23-year-old medical student specializing in leprology, and Alberto, 29, is a biochemist. The tale follows their journey as they unveil the rich and complex human and social topography of the Latin American continent.
At the Gay Film Series
Next showing March 13, at 7 pm: Beautiful Boxer (2004), a quite famous Thai film directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham chronicling the real life story of Parinya Charoenphol, a Muaythai boxer who underwent a sex change operation to become a woman. The movie follows her life from a young boy who liked to wear lipstick and flowers, to her sensational career as a Muaythai boxer, to her confrontation with her own sexuality which led to her sex change operation.
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.”