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Let's Go To The Movies  by Mark Gernpy

 
 

Now playing in Chiang Mai through September 26.

Note: The Major cinema at Airport Plaza has turned into an accident waiting to happen, as a result of its recent facelift. The central hand railing at the main staircase to the cinemas has been removed, leaving no hand railings at all. A danger for everyone who has a problem with balance or walking. Please complain to the staff.

Savages: US, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – I found this a most unpleasant experience in almost every way possible, even including the music. Two pot growers face off against a Mexican drug cartel that kidnapped their shared girlfriend. The merciless head of the Mexican Baja Cartel, and her enforcer, underestimate the unbreakable bond of the three friends, who wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel, thus starting a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high stakes, savage battle of wills. Directed by Oliver Stone and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, and Blake Lively. Most of the secondary acting is well-done – particularly Benicio Del Toro, who gives a performance of such terrifying viciousness that he is unwatchable. But the three main characters give banal pot-headed performances, most often speaking boring dialogue that grates on the nerves and never gives us any reason to care what happens to them. It’s a vicious, vacuous, bloody story told like an adolescent out to gleefully shock by publicly splashing around in pools of blood – yes, I mean the revered Oliver Stone. Nobody needs this trash. Rated R in the US for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use, and language throughout; 18+ here. Mixed or average reviews. In 2D (English) at Airport Plaza only.

Dredd 3D: US/ UK/ India, Action/ Sci-Fi – This film portrays the future America as an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called "Judges" who possess the combined powers of judge, jury, and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous known as "Slo-Mo" which causes users to experience reality at a fraction of its normal speed. “Judge Joe Dredd” is amongst the UK's best known home-grown comic book characters; his comic strip in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD is the magazine's longest running, having been featured there since its second issue in 1977. He’s become for England the icon for a certain type of Fascist “law-and-order” philosophy. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, drug use, and some sexual content; 18+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews. Shown in 3D (English) and 2D (English) at Airport Plaza. At Vista: regular 2D (Thai-dubbed).

But what path have we taken? The creators of this movie were determined to do their best to make violence beautiful, using slow motion techniques to transform the sight of bullets ripping into flesh and the splattering of blood on people’s faces into images of beauty.

Max Poolman, Special Effects Supervisor: “The blood becomes with the correct lighting on it these beautiful red streaks of ribbons flying through the air and it doesn't look gory at all--it's really pretty.”

Vincent E. Toto, Lead Stereographer: “Because everything's in 3D, you get this extreme depth of the blood coming at you, and you can see it trailing along, and you can see it bouncing off things and creating blood splatters that you would never ever see in regular speed photography.”

These people are sick. They should be locked away.

Bait 3D: Australia, Action/ Horror/ Thriller – It’s your average “trapped in a supermarket with a shark” movie . . . wait, what? Ah, yes, a group of people get trapped in a supermarket after a tsunami hits the coast of Queensland, Australia, and soon find out that they have more to worry about than being in a flooded grocery store — there's a 12 foot shark that’s been washed into the basement, and it's hungry. Rated R in the US for bloody violence, some grisly images, and language; 18+ here. Mixed or average reviews (Rotten Tomatoes) – “a shark tale that’s poorly executed yet charmingly absurd.” Shown in both 3D (English) and 2D (English) at Airport Plaza; 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Vista.

Chapter of Jan Dara: Thai, Drama/ Erotic – Based on the most controversial novel in all of Thai literature (written in 1966), Jan Dara tells the story of a young man as he moves into adulthood from a miserable childhood. His mother died while giving birth to him, causing his father to hate him deeply. When he was 13 he was kicked out of his house, accused of a rape he did not commit. And it goes on and on in the same vein as he fights his demons amidst an environment of obsession with sex. It certainly has immense quantities of sex – whether that is an advancement for Thai films must be left to your judgment. Despite all the professed idealism of the director in fighting hypocrisy and prudery, I found that a great deal of the sex was done with the actors looking awkward, as though uncomfortable and ashamed of what they were doing. Especially the scene of three couples having sex with Jan Dara sketching them, where the staging and action was very awkward and self-conscious.

And the story itself I found very distasteful, with several utterly worthless and unredeemable characters, and others incredibly weak. And, oh dear, to think this is just the first film in a planned two-part franchise. Rated 18+ in Thailand and an extraordinarily explicit film for this country. A 2D film in Thai only at Vista. A bit uncertain whether it will be playing now at Airport Plaza, but if it does it will have English subtitles. You’ll only know if it’s on by going to Airport Plaza or calling, as the Major website has not been listing this film.

Resident Evil 5: Retribution: Germany/ Canada, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – The Resident Evil series always does well internationally; Resident Evil 4 was the fifth most popular film in Thailand in 2010. By all indications, this will do similar business; the Chiang Mai cinemas are saturated with the film again this week, and it’s the most popular movie in town. From all I can see, without actually seeing it, which I am in no hurry to do, the settings are superb, and the visuals in general at the cutting edge of filmmaking. Other than that, it’s basically just action, with a minimum of story and character. If you enjoyed the previous films, especially Resident Evil 4, you should enjoy this, and the next one yet to come, as they are simply more of the same. Only with ever-better graphics.

I can do no better than quote a professed fan: “The Resident Evil movies are made for a very specific fan base; yes, fans know these movies are silly and empty-headed, but we don't care. Sure, I love my thought-provoking and visceral horror movies just as much as the next person, but there's also something to be said for going to the movies for 90 minutes and getting lost in the spectacle and badass action sequences that these films are known for. Oh, and don't forget the zombies. Lots and lots and lots of zombies.”

So there you have it. Purely up to you. If you go, you will see that the Umbrella Corporation's deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh-eating Undead. The human race's last and only hope, Alice, played again of course by Milla Jovovich, whose husband is the creator behind this series, awakens in the heart of Umbrella's most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past. Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence throughout. Generally unfavorable reviews. Shown in 3D (English), 3D (Thai-dubbed), and Digital 2D (English) at Airport Plaza. At Vista: Digital 2D (English) and regular 2D (Thai-dubbed).

9-9-81: Thai, Horror/ Mystery – A bride-to-be jumps to her death after she learns her fiancÚ has died. But he hasn’t. What really happened? In a bit of a twist on the horror-anthology format, the points of view of the groom, the best friend and others who were acquainted or close to the couple are recounted in nine short segments of nine minutes each, by nine different directors. For a total of 81 minutes! That at least explains the title. A 2D film, in Thai only, both locations.   

Note: Most everything at Airport Plaza is Digital. Everything at Vista is in 2D, and generally Thai only.


Now playing in Chiang Mai through September 19

Resident Evil 5: Retribution: Germany/ Canada, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – The Resident Evil series always does well internationally; Resident Evil 4 was the fifth most popular film in Thailand in 2010. By all indications, this will do similar business; the Chiang Mai cinemas are saturated with the film this week. From all I can see, without actually seeing it, which I am in no hurry to do, the settings are superb, and the visuals in general at the cutting edge of filmmaking. Other than that, it’s basically just action, with a minimum of story and character. If you enjoyed the previous films, especially Resident Evil 4, you should enjoy this, and the next one yet to come, as they are simply more of the same. Only with ever-better graphics.

I can do no better than quote a professed fan: “The Resident Evil movies are made for a very specific fan base; yes, fans know these movies are silly and empty-headed, but we don't care. Sure, I love my thought-provoking and visceral horror movies just as much as the next person, but there's also something to be said for going to the movies for 90 minutes and getting lost in the spectacle and badass action sequences that these films are known for. Oh, and don't forget the zombies. Lots and lots and lots of zombies.”

So there you have it. Purely up to you. Umbrella Corporation's deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh-eating Undead. The human race's last and only hope, Alice, played again of course by Milla Jovovich, whose husband is the creator behind this series, awakens in the heart of Umbrella's most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past. Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence throughout. Filmed in 3D, Imax, and 3D-Imax. Shown in 3D (English), 3D (Thai-dubbed), and Digital 2D (English) at Airport Plaza.
 

 At Vista: Digital 2D (English) and regular 2D (Thai-dubbed).
Another fan says: It's a Resident Evil movie. I've watched them all at least 4 times and I wasn't aware they were even supposed to have a story – I mean, beyond "Hot girl kills monsters. Also, explosions.”

Chapter of Jan Dara: Thai, Drama/ Erotic – Based on the most controversial novel in all of Thai literature (written in 1966), Jan Dara tells the story of a young man who moves into adulthood with terrible burdens thrown upon him in his youth. His mother died while giving birth to him, causing his father to resent him deeply. By the time he was 13, he was kicked out of his house, accused of a rape he did not commit. Cut to years later, and Jan Dara returns home bent on seeking revenge against his father. But although he has always hated his father’s riotous ways, hateful demeanor, and his treatment of women – he has memories of his father in compromising positions with his nanny – it seems he might be destined to repeat the past in order to conquer it. The film unfolds as he fights his demons amidst an environment of obsession, and comes to grips with three women in his life, each exerting control over him in their own unique ways. Just the first film in a planned two-part franchise. Rated 18+ in Thailand. A 2D film, with English subtitles at Airport Plaza, Thai only at Vista.

9-9-81: Thai, Horror/ Mystery – A bride-to-be jumps to her death after she learns her fiancÚ has died. But he hasn’t. What really happened? In a bit of a twist on the horror-anthology format, the points of view of the groom, the best friend and others who were acquainted or close to the couple are recounted in nine short segments of nine minutes each, by nine different directors. For a total of 81 minutes! That at least explains the title. A 2D film, in Thai only, at Airport Plaza only.
Ted: US, Comedy/ Fantasy – Currently the most popular film in Thailand, this is truly a lot of fun, and I surprised myself by enjoying it immensely. It’s co-written, produced, and directed by Seth MacFarlane, who stars in it along with Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis.
 

 The story: John Bennett was a lonely child, who dearly wished for his new Christmas gift, a large teddy bear he names Teddy, to come to life to be his friend. The wish succeeds with a falling star and Ted became a fully mobile sentient being. John's parents got over the shock, word of the miracle spread, and Ted was briefly a celebrity. Now an adult, John has a problem with the bear: he refuses to leave his side. Very funny, and Mark Wahlberg, who plays this nonsense straight and with utter conviction, is a hoot! Rated R in the US for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use. Generally favorable reviews. Now only at Airport Plaza in 2D (English). Warning: It’s utter raunch, so don’t bring the kiddies, however much they might want to see a talking teddy bear.

The Expendables 2: US, Action/ Thriller – I enjoyed most of this, and if you like this sort of imaginative mayhem, you will too. The Expendables are reunited for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge gets them deep in enemy territory and up against unexpected threats. Stars Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, and Sylvester Stallone; directed by Simon West. Mixed or average reviews, saying in general that it’s a fun roundup of action stars who simultaneously celebrate and send up their former glories. I say it’s redundant, bombastic, and cheekily self-aware. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence throughout. Now only at Vista, and Thai-dubbed.

The Dinosaur Project: UK, Adventure – Explorers go in search of a lost world with high-tech video cameras. Their target: a Loch Ness monster-like creature lurking in the depths of the Congo. This is an eccentrically British attempt to paste together two very different genres: stupendous dinosaur epic, like Jurassic Park, and found-footage fake documentary, like The Blair Witch Project. Mixed or average reviews. Now only at Vista, and Thai-dubbed.
Note: Most everything at Airport Plaza is Digital. Everything at Vista is in 2D, and generally Thai only.


Playing in Chiang Mai

Chapter of Jan Dara: Thai, Drama/ Erotic – Based on the most controversial novel in all of Thai literature (written in 1966), Jan Dara tells the story of a young man who moves into adulthood with terrible burdens thrown upon him in his youth. His mother died while giving birth to him, causing his father to resent him deeply. By the time he was 13, he was kicked out of his house, accused of a rape he did not commit. Cut to years later, and Jan Dara returns home bent on seeking revenge against his father. But although he has always hated his father’s riotous ways, hateful demeanor, and his treatment of women – he has memories of his father in compromising positions with his nanny – it seems he might be destined to repeat the past in order to conquer it. The film unfolds as he fights his demons amidst an environment of obsession, and comes to grips with three women in his life, each exerting control over him in their own unique ways. Just the first film in a planned two-part franchise. Rated 18+ in Thailand. A 2D film, with English subtitles at Airport Plaza, Thai only at Vista.

The director is furious that people accuse him of base impulses in filming this highly erotic move. “I am almost 60! Do you really think someone of my age wants to do an erotic movie for pleasure?” asks an exasperated Mom Noi.

Well . . . yes!

Resident Evil 5: Retribution: (Scheduled) Germany/ Canada, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – The Umbrella Corporation’s deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh-eating Undead. The human race’s last and only hope, Alice, played again of course by Milla Jovovich, awakens in the heart of Umbrella’s most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex. Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence throughout. Filmed in 3D, Imax, and 3D-Imax.

Shambhala: Thai, Drama – I am bitterly disappointed by this film. Starring two Thai actors of considerable note – Lao-Australian superstar Ananda Everingham, and Thai-French heart-throb Sunny Suwanmetanon – this had all the potential of being a significant Thai film. The two actors play brothers on a pilgrimage to Tibet in search of Shambhala, a fabled kingdom that most consider to be located in Tibet, and is thought of as a sort of heaven on Earth in Tibetan and Indian Buddhist traditions. Written and directed by Panchapong Kongkanoi, he may have started out with good intentions, but something went terribly wrong in the three years the film took to complete, and what began as a strong religious story turned into a sappy romance with much mockery of all religion in general and disrespect of Tibetan customs in particular. Sure Ananda reforms a bit at the end, but the greater part of the movie shows him disrespectful of religion, and that’s what Ananda’s fans will take away and want to ape, because it looks so cool when Ananda does it. All involved have much to atone for. A 2D film, with English subtitles at Airport Plaza, Thai only at Vista.

Hmoob (Hmong) Blood for Freedom: Thai, Action/ Drama – A film about the Hmong people who lived in the Kaokor Mountains in Thailand during the period 1968 to 1982, when conflicts between the Thai government and the communist-backed Hmong led to bloody battles that raged on for 14 years. This story is told through the eyes of Kaeng, a Hmong-born, Thai-raised young man, who is caught in the middle of this thorny conflict, which reverberates to the present day. Director Jimmy Vanglee is a Minneapolis-based Hmong filmmaker, and his film won Best Picture award at the 2012 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. A 2D film, in Thai only, at Vista only.

Ted: US, Comedy/ Fantasy – Currently the most popular film in Thailand, this is truly a lot of fun, and I surprised myself by enjoying it immensely. It’s co-written, produced, and directed by Seth MacFarlane, who stars in it along with Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis. The story: John Bennett was a lonely child, who dearly wished for his new Christmas gift, a large teddy bear he names Teddy, to come to life to be his friend. The wish succeeds with a falling star and Ted became a fully mobile sentient being. John’s parents got over the shock, word of the miracle spread, and Ted was briefly a celebrity. Now an adult, John has a problem with the bear: he refuses to leave his side. Very funny, and Mark Wahlberg, who plays this nonsense straight and with utter conviction, is a hoot! Rated R in the US for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use. Generally favorable reviews. In 2D (English) at Airport Plaza and Digital 2D (English) at Vista. Warning: It’s utter raunch, so don’t bring the kiddies, however much they might want to see a talking teddy bear.

The Possession: US, Horror/ Thriller – A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit. The girl’s father eventually has to team up with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child. The catch: here the possession and the exorcism are not in the usual Christian framework, but a Jewish, and the “devil” is a “dybbuk.” Supposedly based on a true story. Mixed or average reviews, saying that it’s full of ghost-movie clich้s, but is inspired by some degree of religious scholarship, and manages to create believable characters in a real world. In 2D (English), and at Airport Plaza only.

The Expendables 2: US, Action/ Thriller – I enjoyed most of this, and if you like this sort of imaginative mayhem, you will too. The Expendables are reunited for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge gets them deep in enemy territory and up against unexpected threats. Stars Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, and Sylvester Stallone; directed by Simon West. Mixed or average reviews, saying in general that it’s a fun roundup of action stars who simultaneously celebrate and send up their former glories. I say it’s redundant, bombastic, and cheekily self-aware. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence throughout. In 2D (English) at Airport Plaza, Thai-dubbed at Vista.

Brave: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – I found this a funny and exciting fantasy-adventure, with a surprisingly strong female protagonist. Set in Scotland in a rugged and mythical time, it’s about an impetuous daughter of royalty. The film is produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney, and is Pixar’s first fairy tale, and I certainly consider it somewhat darker and more mature in tone than its previous films. Generally favorable reviews, saying it offers young audiences a rousing fairy tale with surprising depth. In 2D (English) at Airport Plaza, no longer playing at Vista.

Virgin Am I: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – I quote from the official studio synopsis: “A sex comedy about a group of teenagers who want to lose their virginity for the first time.” Seems to me this says a lot about the confused Thai world-view. Apparently, one of the threads has to do with a boy’s private “right-hand session” going viral on YouTube; another about how starring in an erotic film can cause your friends to drift away. Only at Airport Plaza, and they seem to be ashamed of it: They only display the title in Thai, and they claim at the box office that it has no English subtitles, though the website says it does. Can’t be too sexy – it’s rated 15+.

Yes or No 2: Thai, Drama/ Romance – The sequel to Yes or No, the romance between Pie and Kim, two girls who fall in love with each other. Now, Pie and Kim have been in a relationship for three years, but an internship during their fourth year forces them to stay in different places for a while. However, their long distance love only strengthens their devotion. 2D with English subtitles at Major, Thai-only at Vista.

Note: For updated movie information and reviews, check the Chiang Mai Mail online. It’s updated every Saturday!


 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]]

Now playing in Chiang Mai through September 26.

Now playing in Chiang Mai through September 19

Playing in Chiang Mai