Source Code’s the one to see! (I take a vacation.)
Chiang Mai movies beginning Wednesday, April 13, 2011
… through Wednesday, April 20
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Naresuan. Source Code.
A charming Jake Gyllenhaal
in a terrific Sci-Fi puzzler,
This is Issue Number 24 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.]
Movies were to change this week today, Wednesday, April 13, in honor of the official beginning of the three unholy days of annual bedlam known as Songkran. But they jumped the gun a bit and opened two yesterday: Scream 4 and Nang Pee (at Vista). I didn’t feel it was exactly a STOP PRESS! issue, so you didn’t hear about from me.
Schedule should change again next Thursday, April 21, back to the usual schedule.
I’ll be taking a two-week vacation/ hiatus from my newssheet and this blog. I need a short rest. Next update on May 5.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Scream 4: [Opened Tuesday, April 12] US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 1 hr 43 mins – Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer, and the horror starts all over again. Gentle, grandfatherly, scholarly Wes Craven, revisits his horror franchise. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, and – worst of all – some teen drinking. Rated 18+ in Thailand. It’s in preview mode this week, meaning screenings are only after 8 pm. Thai-dubbed only at Vista.
* Nang Pee / The Cinderella / หนังผี: (Opened Tuesday, April 12) Thai, Horror/ Mystery – 1 hr 30 mins – On a movie set a hot-tempered superstar named Rashane has a quarrel with the movie crew, which led to his unexpected death, and a sequel of horror when Rashane's corpse is summoned back from the grave to get his revenge. The preview shows bloody scenes of the skin being ripped off a man’s back, and the top of a skull removed to get at the brain below. Your move.
* World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles: US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 56 mins – This film has gotten some of the most hateful reviews I’ve read in some time. I didn’t think it was very good, but I didn’t think it deserved such vitriol.(See Roger Ebert’s review below for one of the calmer ones, and which makes some great points that I agree entirely with, having to do with battle scenes these days.) I do think there is one definite pleasure in the film – and that is the performance of Aaron Eckhart. He comes across as an excellent action hero, and he is already an excellent actor, and it was a pleasure to be in his company. He plays the leader of a Marine platoon, and just like a police procedural is a story focusing on the procedures of a police investigation, so this film is a Marine procedural, showing in detail how the Marines would handle a situation. In this case that situation is a bit unusual: an alien invasion. But leave it to the Marines to handle it in their endearingly tough and rough mono-syllabic manner. Marines from Camp Pendleton helped train the actors for their roles, educating them in the Marine way of doing things. A number of actual Marines also appear as extras in the film. It helps give the film its charm. Generally unfavorable reviews: 37/48 out of 100. (The scores, on a basis of 100, are from two web sources. The first, in bold, is from Metacritic.com, and the other is from RottenTomatoes.com. Movies released in the US only.)
The say, “As people everywhere watch the world's great cities fall, Los Angeles becomes the last stand for mankind in a battle no one expected. It's up to a Marine staff sergeant (Aaron Eckhart) and his new platoon to draw a line in the sand as they take on an enemy unlike any they've ever encountered before.”
IMDb says that the film is inspired by the real life incident known as the Battle of Los Angeles, during World War II. On the night of 24-25 February 1942, unidentified aircraft were allegedly spotted in the airspace above Los Angeles. Suspecting it to be the Japanese, a blackout of the city was ordered and over 1,440 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition was fired. Upon finding no evidence of the existence of any enemy aircraft, the incident was declared to be a "false alarm". The event has since been chalked up to as being a result of "war nerves", likely triggered by a lost weather balloon and exacerbated by stray flares and shell bursts from adjoining anti-aircraft batteries.
Very little of the film was actually shot in Los Angeles. Tax incentives brought the production to Louisiana where sets of Los Angeles streets were constructed. Aaron Eckhart broke his arm while filming a stunt.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Overlong and overly burdened with war movie clichés, Battle: Los Angeles will entertain only the most ardent action junkies.
Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips: Original, it's not. Exciting, it is. This jacked-up B-movie hybrid of Black Hawk Down and War of the Worlds is a modest but crafty triumph of tension over good sense and cliché.
Roger Ebert: Battle Los Angeles is noisy, violent, ugly and stupid. Its manufacture is a reflection of appalling cynicism on the part of its makers, who don't even try to make it more than senseless chaos. Here's a science-fiction film that's an insult to the words "science" and "fiction," and the hyphen in between them.
Meteors fall to Earth near the coasts of the world's major cities (and in Ireland's Dingle Bay —
that meteor must have strayed off course). They contain alien troops, which march up from the beach with their weapons of war and attack mankind. No reason is given for this, although it's mentioned they may want our water. We meet the members of a Marine platoon, and its battle-scarred Staff Sgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart). They're helicoptered into Santa Monica and apparently defeat the aliens. Since all of Los Angeles is frequently seen in flames, it's not entirely clear how the Santa Monica action is crucial, but apparently it is.
“Put the camera back on the damn tripod.”
The aliens are hilarious. Do they give Razzies for special effects? They seem to be animal/machine hybrids with automatic weapons growing from their arms, which must make it hard to change the baby. As the Marines use their combat knives to carve into the aliens, they find one layer after another of icky gelatinous pus-filled goo. Luckily, the other aliens are mostly seen in long shot, where they look like stick figures whipped up by apprentice animators.
Aaron Eckhart stars as Staff Sgt. Nantz, a 20-year veteran who has something shady in his record, which people keep referring to, although screenwriter Christopher Bertolini is too cagey to come right out and describe it. Never mind. Eckhart is perfectly cast, and let the word go forth that he makes one hell of a great-looking action hero. He is also a fine actor, but acting skills are not required from anyone in this movie.
The dialogue consists almost entirely of terse screams: Watch it! Incoming! Move! Look out! Fire! Move! The only characters I remember having four sentences in a row are the anchors on cable news. Although the platoon includes the usual buffet of ethnicities, including Latinos, Asians, and a Nigerian surgeon, none of them get much more than a word or two in a row, so as characters, they're all placeholders.
You gotta see the alien battleships in this movie. They seem to have been assembled by the proverbial tornado blowing through a junkyard. They're aggressively ugly and cluttered, the product of a planet where design has not been discovered and even the Coke bottles must look like pincushions. Although these ships presumably arrived inside the meteors, one in particular exhibits uncanny versatility, by rising up from the Earth before the very eyes of the startled Marines. How, you may ask, did it tunnel for 10 or 12 blocks under Santa Monica to the battle lines at Lincoln Boulevard?
There is a lazy editing style in action movies these days that assumes nothing need make any sense visually. In a good movie, we understand where the heroes are, and where their opponents are, and why, and when they fire on each other, we understand the geometry. In a mess like this, the frame is filled with flashes and explosions and shots so brief that nothing makes sense. From time to time, there'll be a closeup of Aaron Eckhart screaming something, for example, and on either side of that shot, there will be unrelated shots of incomprehensible action.
When I think of the elegant construction of something like Gunfight at the OK Corral, I want to rend the hair from my head and weep bitter tears of despair. Generations of filmmakers devoted their lives to perfecting techniques that a director like Jonathan Liebesman is either ignorant of, or indifferent to. Yet he is given millions of dollars to produce this assault on the attention span of a generation.
Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots. Young women: If your date likes this movie, tell him you've been thinking it over, and you think you should consider spending some time apart.
Time, Richard Corliss: This may require a ruling by the Motion Picture Academy, or the Justice League, or the Wisconsin State Senate, but I hereby aver: the shaky-cam aesthetic must end. The use of quivering images to suggest a you-are-there reality never made any sense, since cinematographers of actual documentaries always tried to keep the frame steady, even when shooting combat footage. The shaky-cam as used in Cloverfield and the Paul Greengrass Bourne films, and in TV shows from NYPD Blue to 24 to The Office, is worse than amateurism; it's fake amateurism, the visual equivalent of a comedian pretending to have Parkinson's. 'Tain't funny, 'tain't pretty and, from now on, 'tain't allowed.
In the '60s, movie directors fell in love with the zoom lens, and for a while no movie image was hip unless it changed focal lengths every few seconds. That gimmick quickly exhausted itself — but the even more annoying shaky-cam has been around for a couple decades now. Thirty years ago, when hip-hop began to dominate pop culture, some music lovers might have said, "OK, I can wait this out"; but not me, not with this, not any more. Let the edict be read: Put the camera back on the damn tripod.
* Rio 3D: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – 1 hr 36 mins – Set in the magnificent city of Rio de Janeiro and the lush rainforest of Brazil, the comedy-adventure centers on Blu, a rare macaw who thinks he is the last of his kind. With Jesse Eisenberg, late of The Social Network, as the voice of Blu. From the makers of the Ice Age series. Blu is a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, living a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota, USA. Blu and Linda think he's the last of his kind, but when they learn about another Macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the faraway and exotic land to find Jewel, Blu's female counterpart. Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by a group of bungling animal smugglers. With the help of street smart Jewel, and a group of wise-cracking and smooth-talking city birds, Blu escapes. Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return to Linda in Minnesota. Mixed or average reviews: 60/66 out of 100. In 2D and Thai-dubbed at Vista.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: A simple and charming movie hits great heights thanks to its colorful visual palette, catchy music, and perfect vocal performances.
Boxoffice Magazine, Pete Hammond: Rio is the biggest and brightest animated triumph since Toy Story 3.
* Let the Bullets Fly / 讓子彈飛 [ 让子弹飞 ]: China, Action/ Comedy – 2 hrs 12 mins – Set in China during the warring 1920s, notorious bandit chief Zhang descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, an identity that he had hijacked from Old Tang, himself a small-time imposter. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, Zhang soon meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues. Written and directed by Jiang Wen, starring Jiang Wen and Chow Yun Fat. The film is hugely popular in China, and is on the verge of being China’s biggest box-office hit. Rated 18+ in Thailand. At Major Cineplex only, and only in a Thai-dubbed version.
Hollywood Reporter, Maggie Lee: Machiavellian mind games, a twisted vendetta, and high-octane gun slinging among a bandit posing as a governor, his strategist, and a small-town kingpin are the stuff of adventure and trenchant humor in the Chinese western, Let the Bullets Fly. As an allegory on power, corruption and rough justice, it has flashes of intelligence and political acumen.
Actor-auteurJiang Wen directs with a macho, devil-may-care bravadothat expresses the anarchy and rapacious opportunism of warlord-dominated China in the 1920s.
Source Code: US/ France, Action/ Mystery/ Romance/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 33 mins – A film everyone seems to be raving about it. I can personally verify now that it’s simply terrific in all ways as a thriller and mystery. It stars an excellent Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. A younger brother to Inception, it has the complex infrastructure of top-tier science fiction cinema while toying with the blockbuster formula. Seems to have appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Gripping, well directed, well acted, highly recommended. Generally favorable reviews: 74/74 out of 100. May be in a Thai-dubbed version only at Vista; check!
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Finding the human story amidst the action, director Duncan Jones and charming Jake Gyllenhaal craft a smart, satisfying sci-fi thriller.
The Oregonian, Shawn Levy: This is hair-raising, clever, and winning entertainment. A simple what-if and a simple puzzle, plopped into a ticking-clock narrative and giving rise to several fascinating insights into the human sense of the self.
San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle: The story is simple but charged with feeling, concerning a man trying to identify who committed a mass murder - so as to prevent an even greater disaster. Within five minutes, the movie lays it all out for us: The commuter train is not, strictly speaking, real. Earlier in the day, it was destroyed in a terrorist attack. What we're seeing, instead, is a kind of echo memory. In the world of Source Code, science is able, for a short time, to tap into the consciousnesses of the victims, so as to re-create the last eight minutes of their lives - and collectively to re-create everything that might have happened on that train.
Just that concept, in itself, has power. It's one thing to see people on a train. But to see those people and know that you're witnessing the last minutes of their lives gives everything they do significance and poignancy. What's more, knowing that what you're seeing isn't even real, that this isn't time travel but just waves of memory, creates a sympathetic awareness of the simplicity of human longing.
This is what Source Code has going for it before anything even happens. This is before the frame has been filled in with a good story, tense action, huge stakes, and touching and perceptive performances.
Tallahassee, Eric Jaffe: If you can look past the somewhat preposterous plot, I can almost guarantee that you will love this movie. It's occasionally funny, always thought-provoking, and for the most part, exceptionally original.
Directed by Duncan Jones (whose 2009 debut Moon is a science fiction masterpiece), Source Code establishes the up-and-coming director as a force to be reckoned with. The film takes very few missteps; the cinematography, acting, scripting, and sound are all top-notch. Sure, if one looks hard enough, plotholes can be found, but science fiction has always been about suspension of disbelief anyway. If you go into Source Code expecting cold, hard, scientifically backed realism, you are not going to find it.
At this point, I am confident in saying that Source Code is the best movie released so far in 2011. The high-end concept is executed brilliantly. This is a ride that starts out wild and accelerates until it's over.
The Legend of King Naresuan Part III: Naval Battle / ตำนานสมเด็จนเรศวรมหาราช 3 ภาคยุทธนาวี: Thai, Drama/ War – 2 hrs 32 mins – The third chapter of the King Naresuan epic, continuing the story of Thai's chivalric king and warrior in the Ayudhya era who fought against the invasion of Burmese troops that aimed to overpower the Ayudhya Kingdom. This is the one the sparked a mini-scandal because of the unbelievable huge amount of money the Thai government gave this film for expenses. The Thai Culture Ministry announced that half of its much-touted new program to encourage film artists, called Thai Khem Kaeng (Strong Thailand) fund, with a budget of 200 million baht. The Ministry announced that 100 million of that fund would be awarded King Naresuan Parts III and IV. What is less known is that that obscene sum of money was actually for only one scene in the movie, the epic elephant battle between the 16th century Siamese monarch Naresuan the Great and a Burmese prince. (The Bangkok Post’s Kong Rithdee wrote: “Even Avatar didn't spend 100 million baht on one scene.”) The other 100 million would be divided among 48 or so film projects (out of 295 submissions). A huge cry of “Foul!” arose among filmmakers, critics, and the public decrying such a lopsided distribution. And the Culture Ministry was forced to admit that it didn’t know that the final two films in the series were already receiving 330 million baht in government funds from the Commerce Ministry. In the end, the Culture Ministry said “sorry” and said it would make matters right by reducing the amount they would give the Naresuan film from 100 million baht to about 46 million baht, and ask for this amount to be returned to the Ministry from profits, when they can.
The Great Elephant Battle is in the final film, and is still to be shot. This time around, we have to settle for The Great Naval Battle. The filming of the story of King Naresuan began in 2002 and is still continuing on the huge set built in Kanchanaburi (and which is open to the public). Nearly the whole army garrison in Kanchanaburi is in the movie as extras, plus hundreds of elephants, horses, and other animals. Sort of a 10-year public works project in the province.
Wise Kwai: With a cast of thousands, including a literal army of extras (actual Royal Thai Army soldiers) and a purpose-built studio in Kanchanaburi Province, the scale of the Naresuan films is like nothing ever attempted before in Thailand. Even Hollywood isn't making movies like this anymore – they just use CGI.
(Click on link for complete review.)
Bangkok Post, Kong Rithdee: suffocating grandiosity.
Ha Zard / ฮาศาสตร์: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 1 hr 45 mins – When a university of comedians is facing a downturn and all its comedians are endangered, some comedy students team up to save everyone’s careers. Has at least a cameo from every comic in Thailand, plus excessive excrement and flatulence comedy routines – so very popular. Some really gross stuff.
Wise Kwai: Cover your eyes if you don't want to be blinded by the latest hyper-colorful comedic fantasy by Bangkok Loco director Pornchai Hongrattanaporn, better known as Mr. Pink.
Produced by Five Star Production, it's called Ha Zard (ฮาศาสตร์) and has Fan Chan star Charlie Trairat and Boonchu boy Thanachart Tulyachat teaming up to clown around at a comedy school that's in danger of being shut down.
Pimchanok Ponlaboon, Kirk Schiller, Jaturong Mokjok, and Kom Chuanchuen also star. I think I also spotted a cameo by the pantomime trio Baby Mime.
Hop: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy –1 hr 38 mins – Blending state-of-the-art animation with live action, it tells the comic tale of an average semi-lazy guy (James Marsden) who accidentally injures the Easter Bunny’s teen-aged son (voiced by Russell Brand) and must take him in as he recovers. As he struggles with the world's worst houseguest, “both will learn what it takes to finally grow up” – or so it says here. Actually, from the previews, looks like fun. Mixed or average reviews: 41/43 out of 100. At Vista only, in a Thai-dubbed version.
IMDb viewer: Hop is a beautifully animated, funny, exciting family film.
A mom: Hop is a winner. Entertainment literally for the whole family. Not too scary for youngsters, with just enough adult humor to make them chuckle. Some of the snarky dialogue made my cynical teen actually laugh out loud – always a miracle.
Scheduled for April 21
Arthur: US, Comedy – 1 hr 50 mins – They say, “Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) is a man who has always relied on two things to get by: his limitless fortune and the good sense of lifelong nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) to keep him out of trouble. Now he faces his biggest challenge, choosing between an arranged marriage that will ensure his lavish lifestyle or an uncertain future with the one thing money can’t buy – Naomi (Greta Grewig) the only woman he has ever loved. With Naomi’s inspiration some unconventional help from Hobson, Arthur will take the most expensive risk of his life and finally learn what it means to become a man, in this re-imaging of the 1981 classic.” Generally unfavorable reviews: 37/44 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: An irritating, unnecessary remake that demonstrates the libertine charm Russell Brand exudes in supporting roles turn against him when he's star of the show.
New York Magazine, David Edelstein: Russell Brand gives a career-killing performance.
Ironclad: UK/ US, Action/ Adventure – 2 hrs 1 min – A Medieval Magnificent Seven, Ironclad is a violent action thriller that tells the true story of a motley crew of tough, battle hardened warriors, who withstood several brutal and bloody months under siege, in a desperate bid to defend their country. It is the year 1215 and the rebel barons of England have forced their despised King John to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of free-men. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter, the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his tyrannical rule. Barring his way stood the might Rochester castle, a place that would become the symbol of the rebel’s momentous struggle for justice and freedom. Directed by Jonathan English, and starring Brian Cox, James Purefoy, and Paul Giamatti. Most reviewers seem to think it’s too gory for its own good. Rated R in the US for strong graphic brutal battle sequences, and brief nudity. Early reviews: 53 out of 100.
Hall Pass: US, Comedy– 1 hr 45 mins – Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are best friends who have a lot in common, including the fact that they have each been married for many years. But when the two men begin to show signs of restlessness at home, their wives take a bold approach to revitalizing their marriages: granting them a hall pass, one week of freedom to do whatever they want. At first, it sounds like a dream come true for Rick and Fred. But it isn’t long before they discover that their expectations of the single life and themselves are completely, and hilariously out of sync with reality. Mixed or average reviews: 45/45 out of 100.
... and looking forward to the coming summer films
Apr 28: Thor : US, Action/ Fantasy – 2 hrs 10 mins – There will be a parade of superheroes this summer, and it all starts with this one. Thor is a powerful but arrogant warrior, and he’s sent down to Earth as punishment for reigniting a reckless war. But after a dangerous villain from his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth, the hammer-wielding Thor will learn what it takes to be a true hero in order to save mankind. (Got that?! No? Let’s try again: Thor spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is the mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth by his father Odin and is forced to live among humans. A beautiful, young scientist, Jane Foster, has a profound effect on Thor, as she ultimately becomes his first love. It's while here on Earth that Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth.).Question: What or who is “Asgard”? Directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Anthony Hopkins, Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston.
May 19: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: US, Adventure/ Fantasy – Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) crosses paths with a woman from his past (Cruz), and he's not sure if it's love -- or if she's a ruthless con artist who's using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth..
May 26: The Tree of Life [Not yet scheduled for Thailand] US, Drama/ Fantasy – True film buffs around the world (but not in Thailand, as it’s not scheduled) are looking forward to this one: Starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, the film is only the fifth feature from the acclaimed American auteur Terrence Malick, whose previous movies Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World have all been acclaimed as masterpieces. The story traces the evolution of Jack, an eleven-year-old boy in the Midwest, who is one of three brothers. At first, the world seems marvelous to the child. He sees everything as his mother does, with the eyes of his soul. She represents the way of love and mercy, while the father tries to teach his son the world's way, of putting oneself first. Each parent tries to influence Jack, who must reconcile their claims with each other. The picture darkens as he has his first glimpses of sickness, suffering and death. The world, once a thing of glory, becomes a labyrinth. According to IMDb, The origin of this film goes back to the late 1970s, when after Days of Heaven (1978) director Terrence Malick was working on a project named "Q", that would explore the origins of life on earth. He abandoned the project, but this film contains elements from it. And yes, there is a tree of life that appears in the film, a gargantuan 65000-pound live-oak tree situated at Smithville, Texas.
May 26: King Fu Panda 2: the Kaboom of Doom: Another entry in the sequel class, this will feature the voice talents of Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman and Jackie Chan in a new animated fight romp. Jack Black returns as Po in the sequel to the wildly popular Kung Fu Panda. The original cast of Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, and Seth Rogen return and features Michelle Yeoh, Gary Oldman, and Jean-Claude Van Damme as new additions. Po and the Furious Five join forces with another group of kung fu masters to face off against Lord Shen, an evil peacock who threatens to destroy all kung fu. Marketed as "the continuing adventures of Po," this sequel to the popular 2008 kid pic Kung Fu Panda returns the stellar voice cast. However the director is major league rookie Jennifer Yuh, whose previous directorial filmography includes "unknown episodes" of the 1997 TV series Spawn.
May 26: The Hangover Part II, one of the summer’s sequels, in which the gang of male misfits gets into trouble in Bangkok. The Hangover is the highest-grossing R-rated comedy in movie history so a sequel was a certainty.
Jun 2: X-Men: First Class. This one a “prequel”. First up this month is the highly-anticipated reboot to the mutant movie franchise as X-Men: First Class takes us back to the beginning for Professor Xavier and his school for gifted youngsters. For those of you unfamiliar, bear in mind that this isn’t a prequel connected to the first three films, or Wolverine for that matter, but a whole new direction for the characters. Heading up the new franchise are James McAvoy (Wanted), Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds), and, as if we needed any more ways to connect him to everything in Hollywood, Kevin Bacon. First Class focuses on Professor Charles Xavier as he founds Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in 1963, catering to students with special abilities. This Marvel comic book adaptation is a prequel to the first three X-Men movies. Fans can only hope it will be as fun to watch as the drama involved in making it, with Bryan Singer jettisoned as the director (much to some people's pleasure) in favor of Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass), and Vaughn having to rewrite part of the script after seeing Inception.
Jun 9: Super 8: US, Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – One of the most highly anticipated original films of the season: J.J. Abrams' Super 8, about a group of kids in a small Ohio town in 1979 who capture a train crash on a home movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth. There’s been an extensive “viral” marketing campaign going on for this film ever since May 6, 2010! The website http://www.scariestthingieversaw.com/ is the main starting point, and will lead you to strange messages and clues and activities that you can be a part of. You can participate and print things out, read a newspaper, and even hear an audio clip. And get led to other sites and the hints of a large mystery and cover-up. The film is produced by Steven Spielberg, and the trailers look super, reminiscent of other kid movies he has produced, like E.T. and The Goonies.
Jun 16: Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds as a test pilot with a mystical green superpower ring. DC Comics’ Emerald Warrior finally comes to the big screen in Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, and Mark Strong as Sinestro. Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royal) and with cinematography by Academy Award-winner Dion Beebe (Memoirs of a Geisha), it promises to be a cosmic adventure on an epic scale. The movie also features familiar faces in supporting roles as well, such as Angela Bassett, Peter Sarsgaard, and Tim Robbins. Geoff Johns, who has written the Green Lantern comic series since 2004, was a creative consultant during filming, and has promised fans of the franchise that the finished product will not disappoint.
Jun 23: Bad Teacher: US, Comedy – 1 hr 32 mins – One of the most highly anticipated original films of the season. It stars Cameron Diaz as a foul-mouthed educator in a staffroom love triangle. She’s a junior high teacher who, after being dumped by her sugar daddy, begins to woo a colleague -- a move that pits her against a well-loved teacher. Rated R in the US for sexual content, nudity, language, and some drug use. Not yet scheduled for Thailand.
Jul 14: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. the final installment of the long-running boy wizard saga, the film features the heroes of Hogwarts in their final showdown with Voldemort. If they fail, don't worry, help comes in two weeks.
Jul 28: Captain America if the heroes of Hogwarts don’t save the world, Captain America will. Or at least civilization as we know it. Chris Evans (who has experience portraying a superhero as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four films) stars as Steve Rogers, a scrawny soldier deemed unfit to serve who volunteers to be part of a top-secret “super soldier” program during World War II. The experiment grants him uncanny fighting skills and enhanced reflexes which he uses to thwart various German plots, including those of the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Joe Johnston (The Wolfman, Hidalgo) directs the film, which has been described as a cross between Saving Private Ryan and The Rocketeer. Tommy Lee Jones also stars. This superhero pic focuses on the early days of the Marvel Universe, when sickly Steve Rogers volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into Nazi-fighting Super Soldier Captain America.
Aug 11: Cowboys and Aliens, Hollywood has high hopes for this sci-fi western, directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf). Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde, Cowboys and Aliens is set in 1873 Arizona. Jake Lonergan (Craig) wakes up with no memory of his past and a strange device attached to his arm. Upon entering the town of Absolution, he finds out that he is a wanted criminal and comes into conflict with Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford). Soon, mysterious beings begin attacking the town, and Lonergan must ally himself with Dolarhyde in order to stop them. A sci-fi western based on the graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, it's been newsworthy this summer due to Robert Downey Jr. dropping out for scheduling reasons and Olivia Wilde apparently going full-frontal. Directed by Iron Man's Jon Favreau,
Nov 3: Rise of the Apes, Another throwback to the past, a new film in the venerable Planet of the Apes series starring James Franco and Freida Pinto.
* = 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, April 15, 8 pm: [No showing – Holiday – Songkran!]
On Friday, April 22, 8 pm: 7 ans / 7 Years (2006) by Jean-Pascal Hattu – 1 hr 22 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.
With Valérie Donzelli, Pablo De la Torre, Cyril Troley, Bruno Todeschini, Nadia Kaci.
Maïté faithfully visits her sexy, intense husband Vincent, when she's spotted by a pale, pointy-faced man who says he's there to visit his brother Jean. Having been advised by her nurse friend Djamila to take a lover, she consents to mechanical sex with Jean in a car. The relationship continues and intensifies. It's not till some time later that Maïté learns Jean is a guard at the prison...
– Alliance description
Film Lounge, Neil Young: A decidedly unusual (yes, perhaps even bizarre) love-triangle develops between a prison-inmate serving some way into a seven-year sentence (Bruno Todeschini as Vincent), his guard (Cyril Troley as Jean) and his wife (Valérie Donzelli as Maïté) in this reasonably well-observed, strongly-acted, character-based drama . . . 7 Ans is undeniably well done, in a low-key, uninflected style (significant looks prove more eloquent than dialogue).
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
April is “The Month of Tremble with Terror” 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, April 16, 7 pm: Oldboy / Old Boy (2003) by Chan-Wook Park – 2
hrs – South Korea, Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller. An average man is kidnapped and imprisoned in a shabby cell for 15 years without explanation. He then is released, equipped with money, a cell phone and expensive clothes. As he strives to explain his imprisonment and get his revenge, Oh Dae-Su soon finds out that his kidnapper has a greater plan for him and is set onto a path of pain and suffering in an attempt to uncover the motive of his mysterious tormentor. Rated R in the US for strong violence including scenes of torture, sexuality, and pervasive language. Mixed or average reviews: 74/73 out of 100. In Korean, with English subtitles.
Film Scouts, David Sterritt: Sadistic, insufferable, clever, and relentlessly compelling.
Salon, By Stephanie Zacharek: A grand, gritty, indelible experience, the sort of picture that mimics great literature in the way it envelops you in a well-told story while also evoking subtle but strong gradations of emotion. Oldbo begins as a revenge fantasy and evolves into something much more complex and redemptive. It's a thrilling picture, and in places a funny one, yet it can't be classified as an action picture or a comedy -- it's too infused with tragic poetry to be so conveniently buttonholed. Oldboy is a viscerally charged picture, and an exceedingly beautiful one, but its beauty springs directly from its anguish. It's like a flower watered with blood.
The hero and the victim of Oldboy is Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), who is, when we first meet him, a gregarious but average Seoul businessman who's gotten a little drunk after a night on the town. He's arrested for his disorderly conduct, detained briefly, and released into the custody of a friend. That's when his nightmare begins: Before he can return home to his wife and young daughter (it's her birthday, and he's bought her a pair of white-feather angel wings as a gift), he's abducted mysteriously. Oh Dae-su doesn't know who has kidnapped him, or why. But whatever he's done, his tormentor has gone to inhumane lengths to make him suffer: He's confined to a seedy hotel room, furnished with a TV set, a bed and a "Night Gallery"-style clown painting, and fed a diet of nothing but fried dumplings -- for 15 years.
And then one day Oh Dae-su -- toughened up from exercising regularly in his room, his knuckles permanently callused from using the wall as a sparring partner -- is pitched back out into the real world, without ever having learned why he was confined for so long, or the identity of his captor. He has nowhere to go (during his imprisonment, he learns from watching TV that he has been framed for his wife's murder). He has, however, been provided with a cellphone and a wallet full of cash. The phone rings, and he answers it: The mysterious voice on the other end challenges Oh Dae-su to find out what his crime was. This isn't the beginning of Oh Dae-su's freedom; it's merely a new and more cruel type of confinement. ...
At Film Space Saturday, April 23, 7 pm: The Page Turner / La tourneuse de pages (2006) by Denis Dercourt – 1 hr 15 mins – France, Drama/ Music/ Thriller. Mélanie Prouvost, a ten-year-old butcher's daughter, is a gifted pianist. She attends an important audition to obtain subsidized piano lessons--necessary to pursue her dream of being a professional musician. However, the arrogant disregard of one of the judges -- famous concert pianist Ariane Frouchecourt -- shatters her confidence; she blows her chance and departs in tears. More than a decade later, with her own musical hopes long since abandoned, Melanie returns -- now as an attractive, poised young woman -- and proceeds to insinuate herself into the life of her former nemesis: becoming first her onstage page-turner, then her friend and confidante, and finally, her destroyer. Generally favorable reviews: 67/69 out of 100. In French, with English subtitles.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Reminiscent of Hitchcock and Chabrol, The Page Turner is elegant yet suspenseful, a revenge potboiler of a high degree.
Chicago Tribune, Michael Wilmington: Dercourt, a very fine filmmaker, is a musician himself, a music teacher, and one-time solo viola player with the French Symphony Orchestra. And he directs, with a musician's precision and an insider's sly wit, the world of classical music performance..