A peek at the Chiang Mai Mail movie column
Chiang Mai movies – EU Film Festival Listings, Update 2
by Thomas Ohlson
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Below (as Chart 3) are some comments on the films showing today (Tuesday, July 26) and tomorrow (Wednesday, July 27). Hopefully, another update Thursday. At Sunday’s screening of Camino the audience had powerful reactions, of opposing kinds. Some were weeping openly at the story of the young girl, others could literally not control their anger at some of the worst instances of the Church’s inhumanity and spoke back to the screen in objection. You rarely see a film that so moves an audience. It’s showing again Tuesday evening at 6:35.
And here’s a somewhat revised version of the current movie column in the Chiang Mai Mail. I suggest you check out The Conspirator and Mary and Max – both playing only at Vista.
Let's go to the movies
by Mark Gernpy
Now playing in Chiang Mai through July 27
The Conspirator: US, Drama – In the wake of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, seven men and one woman are arrested and charged with conspiring to kill the President, the Vice-President, and the Secretary of State. The lone woman charged, Mary Surratt, 42, owns a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth and others met and planned the simultaneous attacks. Against the ominous back-drop of post-Civil War Washington, new lawyer Frederick Aiken, a 28-year-old Union war-hero, reluctantly agrees to defend Surratt before a military tribunal, where the rules state that only a majority vote is required for a guilty verdict and a two-thirds vote is needed to sentence a defendant to death. It is a court where a defendant is prohibited from testifying in their own defense. As the trial unfolds, Aiken realizes his client may be innocent and that she is being used as bait and hostage in order to capture the only conspirator to have escaped a massive manhunt, her own son. Generally favorable reviews. At Vista only.
It’s important to acknowledge the political statement that the very existence of this film makes. Directed by Robert Redford, The Conspirator is first of all true to the historical record; it’s written by James Solomon who spent fourteen years researching the story. Beyond that, Redford, long a champion of civil liberties in the United States, implicitly reminds us that the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution expressly guarantees that "no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law" and provides no exception for war.
It is not only an important message for those unfamiliar with United States history, but is strikingly relevant to the present day in which hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo still languish in prison without trial, where a US citizen, suspected of terrorist activities, is targeted without having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime, and where the ideal of due process and the presumption of innocence is slowly being replaced by violence and the repudiation of legality.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – Go see it. You know you will eventually anyway. This, the final Harry Potter, is an exciting and massively eventful finale that will grip and greatly please anyone who has been at all a fan of the series up to now. It’s powerfully acted and visually dazzling. The entire series of Potter books and motion pictures has been leading us to this final showdown between Harry and Voldemort. The fight here between good and evil is more than satisfying. It's thrilling – carrying an ultimate message that will resonate with every viewer, young or old: there is darkness in all of us, but we can overcome it.
It’s much better than the book, in my opinion, which has sections that are so preposterous that no amount of suspension of disbelief can overcome. Playing in both 2D and 3D versions in English at Airport Plaza, and an additional 2D version that’s Thai-dubbed. In 2D at Vista, in both English and Thai-dubbed versions. I saw it in 2D; from what I’ve read so far, the 3D (which is post-production conversion) is good, but doesn’t add all that much. Reviews: one of the rare films to be labeled by Metacritic as “Universal acclaim.”
The Moon (Pumpuang Duangjan): Thai, Drama/ Musical – The biography of Pumpuang Duangjan, considered the Queen of Thai country music. The rags-to-riches story charts her successes in the 1980’s up to her early death in 1992 at the age of 31. One of the most anticipated Thai films of the year, and with a newcomer in the starring role. Prettified as biography, with reportedly anything that shows anyone in a bad light changed or deleted. In Thai only at Vista, English subtitles at Major Cineplex.
Hanna: US, Action/ Crime/ Mystery – A really weird one, sort of a cross between a Euro Art Film and an ass-kicking female action flick like those of Thailand’s own Jeeja (Chocolate). Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan, who you saw in Atonement) is a teenage girl with the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a solider; these come from being raised by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland. Her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Cate Blanchett). An odd film with odd actions done for obscure reasons, but entertaining and intriguing. Generally favorable reviews. Airport Plaza (Major Cineplex) only; shown in digital format (but it’s not 3D).
Mary and Max: Australia, Animation/ Comedy/ Drama – This is a lovingly crafted, startlingly inventive piece of animation whose technical craft is equaled by its emotional resonance. Adam Elliot, director of the Academy-award-winning Harvey Krumpet, returns to the world of clay animation with this simple tale of the innocent correspondence between a portly eight year old girl from the suburbs of Melbourne and a morbidly obese, middle-aged Jewish New Yorker suffering from Asperger's Syndrome. On the surface it would seem that Mary (Toni Collette) and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman) would have little in common, but over the course of twenty years, the unlikely pen pals exchange letters discussing everything from taxidermy, trust, pets, religion, obesity, autism, agoraphobia, alcoholism, and just about any other topic that comes to mind as they sit down and put pen to paper. Barry Humphries and Eric Bana provide additional voices. In English and Yiddish, with Thai subtitles. Generally favorable reviews. Vista only.
The Lost Bladesman: Hong Kong, Action/ Biography/ Drama/ History – This historical martial arts film set in AD 200 is adapted from the story of Guan Yu crossing five passes and slaying six generals, as told in Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Most reviewers claim it’s confusing, some admit to not understanding a thing. but being very impressed with the fine balance between sweeping epic and intimate personal drama. With superstar Donnie Yen. Generally favorable reviews. Vista only, and in a Thai-dubbed version.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – This third Transformers is indeed a big 2D and 3D spectacular, and may be in 3D again at Airport Plaza when Major Cineplex finishes the conversion of a second cinema to 3D. The 3D is the best I’ve seen since Avatar. In English at Airport Plaza, both English and Thai-dubbed versions at Vista. The opening 12 or so minutes I think is magnificent movie-making: exciting and provocative, beautifully shot, great story, involving. Then we get the titles and the beginning of the story of the two stars, the incredibly irritating Shia LaBeouf and his girlfriend played by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who is dreadful. The movie falls to pieces in my eyes whenever their story is front and center, only to be further undermined by the silly and incredibly noisy battles of the tinker toys.
Too bad, because there’s an involving and interesting movie hidden beneath this one’s detritus. Set against the space race between the USSR and the USA, the film re-imagines the reasons for the race, and neatly combines historical footage with the fictional “true reasons” which, wouldn’t you know, involves the Transformers and their hidden role in all this. Mixed or average reviews.
The Beaver: US, Drama – Only at Airport Plaza, and again only shown once a day (in the morning). This is an oddity and one of the darkest mainstream films to have come along in some time. Jodie Foster directs and co-stars in this film with Mel Gibson, and it’s an almost too-close-to-home story about an emotional wreck of a man in the throes of an acute depression, and his journey to re-start his life. Much like Gibson seems to be doing in his life and with this film. In the story, the protagonist is so mentally unbalanced that he can only communicate with the world through a hand puppet representing a toy beaver. Reviewers are saying the acting is top notch. Mixed or average reviews.