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XI No.14 - Sunday December 16 - Saturday December 29, 2012


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Let's Go To The Movies  by Mark Gernpy

 

Now playing in Chiang Mai through December 26.

Life of Pi: US, Adventure/ Drama – I’d be very happy if this won the Oscar for best picture of the year. I think it’s that good as popular entertainment, and as an artistic achievement. I saw it in 2D and I would imagine it would be even more thrilling in 3D. Unfortunately, Major is not showing it all that often in 3D, curses on them. This is simply a superb film from start to finish in all aspects. Do see it! Among other things it’s a deeply religious story about an Indian youth named Pi who is raised a Hindu, but who as a fourteen-year-old is introduced to Christianity and Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he "just wants to love god." The core of the story has Pi, now a beautiful young man, shipwrecked at sea for 227 days in the company of a fully-grown Bengal tiger. Directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain). I was immensely impressed by the way the strange but fascinating book was brought so faithfully to life, including such impossible sequences as the floating island of meerkats. Generally favorable reviews, saying it's an astonishing technical achievement that's also emotionally rewarding. Shown in both 2D (English) and 3D (English) at Airport Plaza; Digital 2D (English) at Vista. Don’t miss this.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey / The Hobbit: Part 1: US/ New Zealand, Adventure/ Fantasy – Grand entertainment! I think you’ll find this thoroughly enjoyable if you have liked any of the previous Middle Earth fantasies. The filmmaking here is extraordinary, as is the storytelling. It’s endlessly inventive and spectacular. I saw it in 3D and urge you to do the same. The film acts as a prelude to J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, and is the first of a three-part film adaptation of the 1937 novel The Hobbit, to be followed by The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, due for theatrical release in Dec 2013 and Jul 2014, respectively. It’s meticulously, even gorgeously, photographed, showing off the rich New Zealand countryside, and with a number of innovations to produce the last word in digital 3D filmmaking, including the use of HFR – High Frame Rate – filming at 48 frames per second (FPS), double the normal amount. The increased number of frames results in more detailed image clarity, with less flicker and blur. This version is available in Thailand, but not here in Chiang Mai, yet. Generally favorable reviews, saying it’s visually resplendent and features strong performances from Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, but the film's deliberate pace robs the material of some of its majesty. Don’t agree with that last. At Airport Plaza shown not in the high frame rate version, but in 3D (English) and 3D (Thai-dubbed) and regular 2D (English). At Vista, digital 2D (English) and regular 2D (Thai-dubbed). Really long: 170 minutes. Nearly three hours, but I didn’t mind or notice the length. I completely enjoyed it.

Chinese Zodiac: Hong Kong/ China, Action/ Adventure – Starring and directed by Jackie Chan, this is a sequel to "Amour of God" and "Amour of God II: Operation Condor." By all reports, this is his last film, and he intends to go out in style. Chan reprises his role as adventurer and treasure hunter Asian Hawk, who is a Chinese hero not unlike Indiana Jones. This time, he has to bring back the bronze head statues of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, which were sacked by the French and British armies from the imperial Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 during the Second Opium War. The film is in English and Spanish but shown here only in a Thai-dubbed version at both locations.

Countdown: Thai, Thriller – Looks dreadfully violent. Three Thai teenagers, two boys and one girl, find themselves sharing a hotel room in New York City during the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve. Jack is a rich kid from Thailand who lies to his parents that he’s in NYC to study, but in reality he is actually spending their money on a daily basis just to have fun. Pam is a materialistic girl who would do anything to impress others. Finally there is Bee, Jack’s girlfriend, who has yet to reveal to anyone why she came to NYC in the first place.

The three friends want to have a New Year’s Eve party to remember, so Jack calls a drug dealer by the name of Jesus, no less, to drop off some stuff to their apartment so they can celebrate the end of the year in style. They don’t know Jesus that well and don’t know his background. Not very smart, and Jesus, turns out to have a vicious and sadistic streak in him, and it turns out that they are counting down without knowing for sure that they’ll ever see another dawn. The film is partially in English. Rated 18+ in Thailand. In 2D (English subtitles) at Airport Plaza, 2D (Thai only) at Vista.

Together / Wan Tee Rak: Thai, Drama – The story centers on Orathai and Nipon, who have been together for almost ten years as a married couple. Their long love for each other is tested when some conflicts and memories from their past threaten their peaceful marriage. The Bangkok Post calls it “a surprisingly tender and sure-footed piece of filmmaking.” In 2D (English subtitles) at Airport Plaza, not playing at Vista.

Rise of the Guardians 3D: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – A strange and discomfiting film which just may be one of the most brilliant animated films of our time. But it’s not a barrel of laughs, instead quite the contrary -- it is dark and forbidding alternating with bright and enchanting. Maybe once moviegoers are over the shock, its true qualities will be more appreciated. I know it will take time for me to overcome my feeling that it’s just too creepy, with characters you would not want anywhere near children. It tells the story of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost – legendary characters with previously unknown extraordinary abilities, but here with disturbing dark sides and hang-ups. I say that if this scruffy Easter Bunny tries to foist an egg off on you, you should run for the hills! Santa has “Naughty” tattooed on one arm, “Nice” on the other, bringing up not-so-pleasant recollections of the preacher in “Night of the Hunter.” Worst of all is the Boogeyman, powerfully played by Jude Law, a terrifying presence whose motives are deep and vaguely perverse. Mixed or average reviews, saying it’s wonderfully animated and briskly paced, and full of delight and action and charm and comedy, but only so-so in the storytelling department. I don’t agree with that last. Showing now only at Vista in 2D (Thai-dubbed).

Hotel Transylvania: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family – A fun film and funny enough for me to enjoy, and with some excellent purely serviceable animation, overseen by the talented Emmy-award animator Genndy. It’s the story of Dracula's lavish five-stake hotel, where monsters and their families can live it up, free to be the monsters they are without humans to bother them. This particular weekend, Dracula has as guests Frankenstein and his wife, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, a family of werewolves, and more – all to celebrate his daughter’s 118th birthday. With the voice of the world’s most unfunny comic, Adam Sandler, as Dracula. He is not as obnoxious as usual (he’s definitely better drawn than filmed), though he does manage, as is his habit, to introduce several flatulence jokes that are huge and gross. Mixed or average reviews, saying the proceedings have a buoyant, giddy tone which may please children, but might be a bit too loud and thinly-scripted for older audiences. Shown now only in 2D, English at Airport Plaza, Thai-dubbed at Vista.

Super Salary Man / Yod Manut Nguen Duen: Thai, Drama – The daily life of office workers who struggle to balance their personal lives with career goals. Only at Vista (Thai only).
Note: Everything at Airport Plaza is Digital. Everything at Vista is in 2D, Digital only in Cinema 1, and all are generally Thai only.


Now playing in Chiang Mai through December 19.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey / The Hobbit: Part 1: US/ New Zealand, Adventure/ Fantasy – Grand entertainment! I think you’ll find this thoroughly enjoyable if you have liked any of the previous Middle Earth fantasies. The filmmaking here is extraordinary, as is the storytelling. Endlessly inventive and spectacular. I saw it in 3D and urge you to do the same. The film acts as a prelude to J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, and is the first of a three-part film adaptation of the 1937 novel The Hobbit, to be followed by The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, due for theatrical release in Dec 2013 and Jul 2014, respectively. It’s meticulously, even gorgeously, photographed, showing off the rich New Zealand countryside, and with a number of innovations to produce the last word in digital 3D filmmaking, including the use of HFR – High Frame Rate – filming at 48 frames per second (FPS), double the normal amount. The increased number of frames results in more detailed image clarity, with less flicker and blur. This version is available in Thailand, but not here in Chiang Mai, yet. Generally favorable reviews, saying it’s visually resplendent and features strong performances from Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, but the film's deliberate pace robs the material of some of its majesty. Don’t agree with that last. At Airport Plaza shown in both 24 FPS 3D (English) and regular 24 FPS 2D (Thai-dubbed). At Vista, digital 2D (English) and regular 2D (Thai-dubbed). Really long: 170 minutes – about the same as Cloud Atlas. Nearly three hours. But I didn’t mind or notice the length. I completely enjoyed it.

3 Marks of Existence / Na Must Te India: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – The studio says: Em is facing many problems in his young life. He decides to take a trip to India to follow Lord Buddha's path at the four pilgrimage sites: Lumpini (the birth place), Sarnath (where he delivered his first teaching), Bodh Gaya (the place of his Enlightenment), and Kusinara (where he died). Journalist Wise Kwai describes it as a road movie about a young man's pilgrimage to significant Buddhist sites in India and Nepal, and has a whimsical, wry humor and an episodic nature. It was supported by the Culture Ministry's Strong Thailand fund. Only at Airport Plaza (English subtitles).

Rise of the Guardians 3D: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – A strange and discomfiting film which just may be one of the most brilliant animated films of our time. But it’s not a barrel of laughs, instead quite the contrary -- it is dark and forbidding alternating with bright and enchanting. Maybe once moviegoers are over the shock, its true qualities will be more appreciated. I know it will take time for me to overcome my feeling that it’s just too creepy, with characters you would not want anywhere near children. It tells the story of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost – legendary characters with previously unknown extraordinary abilities, but here with disturbing dark sides and hang-ups. I say that if this scruffy Easter Bunny tries to foist an egg off on you, you should run for the hills! Santa has “Naughty” tattooed on one arm, “Nice” on the other, bringing up not-so-pleasant recollections of the preacher in “Night of the Hunter.” Worst of all is the Boogeyman, powerfully played by Jude Law, a terrifying presence whose motives are deep and vaguely perverse. Mixed or average reviews, saying it’s wonderfully animated and briskly paced, and full of delight and action and charm and comedy, but only so-so in the storytelling department. I don’t agree with that last. No longer shown in 3D at Airport Plaza, which is a shame, since a lot of work was expended on the brilliant 3D rendering. 2D now, English at Airport Plaza, Thai-dubbed at Vista.

Hotel Transylvania: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family – A fun film and funny enough for me to enjoy, and with some excellent purely serviceable animation, overseen by the talented Emmy-award animator Genndy Tartakovsky and Sony Pictures Animation. It’s the story of Dracula's lavish five-stake hotel, where monsters and their families can live it up, free to be the monsters they are without humans to bother them. This particular weekend, Dracula has as guests Frankenstein and his wife, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, a family of werewolves, and more – all to celebrate his daughter’s 118th birthday. With the voice of the world’s most unfunny comic, Adam Sandler, as Dracula. He is not as obnoxious as usual (he’s definitely better drawn than filmed), though he does manage, as is his habit, to introduce several flatulence jokes that are huge and gross. Mixed or average reviews, saying the proceedings have a buoyant, giddy tone which may please children, but might be a bit too loud and thinly-scripted for older audiences. Shown both as a 3D film (English) and a 2D film (Thai-dubbed) at Airport Plaza; 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Vista.
Super Salary Man / Yod Manut Nguen Duen: Thai, Drama – The daily life of office workers who struggle to balance their personal lives with career goals. In 2D (English subtitles) at Airport Plaza, regular 2D (Thai only) at Vista.

Cloud Atlas: Germany/ US/ Hong Kong/ Singapore, Drama/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi – Certainly you will not be bored by this film, as there are dazzling performances, directed with tremendous energy and imagination. But schedule yourself to see it twice, as I found it perhaps the most complicated and ambitious film of recent years. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, all playing a variety of roles. Rated R in the US for violence, language, sexuality/nudity, and some drug use; 18+ here. Mixed or average reviews, saying its sprawling, ambitious blend of thought-provoking narrative and eye-catching visuals will prove too unwieldy for some, but the sheer size and scope are all but impossible to ignore. I agree, and I think you will want to see this daring and visionary film. It’s long. 172 minutes. Like about three hours. Now only at Vista in a Thai-dubbed version. Prepare to either work hard, or relax and enjoy. But do see it.

The Impossible: Spain, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – One of the most emotionally realistic disaster movies in recent memory -- and certainly one of the most frightening in its epic re-creation of the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. A husband and wife and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand in 2004, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise. It’s a tremendous feat of physical filmmaking with an emotional true story of family survival. Stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor; directed by the Spanish Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage). Early reviews: Generally favorable, saying it is wrenchingly acted, deftly manipulated, and terrifyingly well made. Now only at Vista in a Thai-dubbed version.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2: US, Adventure/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance – I have to say that if you’re at all a fan of the series this will prove a very satisfactory conclusion indeed. It’s a huge hit; after four weeks it’s already the second biggest film of the year in Thailand. In this fifth film of the franchise, the existence of Bella and Edward's child Renesmee has attracted the attention of the volatile Volturi, who seem to want nothing more than to take down the Cullen family and end their reign of looking fabulous in the sun. Surely you know by now if this series is for you; trust your instincts. Mixed or average reviews, saying though it might be the most enjoyable chapter in the series that won't be enough to make the movie worth watching for those who don't already count themselves fans. A 2D film in English at Airport Plaza only, not playing every day, no longer playing at Vista.
Note: Most everything at Airport Plaza is Digital. Everything at Vista is in 2D, and generally Thai only.


Playing in Chiang Mai

Premium Rush: US, Action/ Thriller – A thoroughly delightful movie, even joyous, especially for people who have a soft spot in their heart for New York City. Wilee (played winningly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of 1,500 bike couriers in Manhattan, but he rides on the edge – he has a bike with no brakes. On this day, Wilee has a delivery that’s so valuable that a corrupt NYC Detective, who needs money, begins to chase him through the city to get it before the envelope is delivered. Terrific stunts and special effects, and none more special than Gordon-Levitt’s captivating personality. Generally favorable reviews, saying it’s built out of familiar parts but, no matter how formulaic the storyline might seem, it’s elevated by high-octane action and enjoyable performances. A 2D film in English, playing only at Airport Plaza. Highly recommended.

Life of Pi: (Scheduled for this Thursday, Dec 20) US, Adventure/ Drama – Get ready for this experience! You might want to read the book before you see it, if you haven’t already. (I found the book fascinating and irritating in equal measure.) I am really looking forward to this: a deeply religious story everyone including the author considered unfilmable. Pi is raised a Hindu, but as a fourteen-year-old he is introduced to Christianity and Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love god.” The core of the story has Pi, now a beautiful young man, shipwrecked at sea for 227 days in the company of a fully-grown Bengal tiger. At the moment, seems to be a front-runner for the Oscar best picture. Directed by Ang Lee. Reviews: Now generally favorable.

Cloud Atlas: Germany/ US/ Hong Kong/ Singapore, Drama/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi – Certainly you will not be bored by this film, as there are dazzling performances, solid directing, served with tremendous energy and imagination. But schedule yourself to see it twice, as it’s perhaps the most complicated film of recent years. Critic Roger Ebert says surely this is one of the most ambitious films ever made. “But, oh, what a film this is! And what a demonstration of the magical, dreamlike qualities of the cinema.” You will have to agree with that. Written and directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwerand, and Andy Wachowski, and starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, all playing a variety of roles. Rated R in the US for violence, language, sexuality/nudity, and some drug use; 18+ here. Mixed or average reviews, saying its sprawling, ambitious blend of thought-provoking narrative and eye-catching visuals will prove too unwieldy for some, but the sheer size and scope are all but impossible to ignore. I agree, and I think you will want to see this daring and visionary film. As Ebert predicts, “Anywhere you go where movie people gather, it will be discussed. Deep theories will be proposed. Someone will say, ‘I don’t know what in the hell I saw.’ The names of Freud and Jung will come up.” You will not want to miss out. It’s long. 172 minutes. Like about three hours. In 2D (English) at both locations; Vista also has a Thai-dubbed version. Prepare to either work hard, or relax and enjoy. But do see it.

The Impossible: Spain, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – “One of the most emotionally realistic disaster movies in recent memory — and certainly one of the most frightening in its epic re-creation of the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. A husband and wife and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand in 2004, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise. But on the morning of December 26th, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the center of the earth. The wife freezes in fear as a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward her. Thus starts the most harrowing disaster movie in many a moon, combining a tremendous feat of physical filmmaking with an emotional true story of family survival. Stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor; directed by the Spanish Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage). Early reviews: Generally favorable, saying it is wrenchingly acted, deftly manipulated, and terrifyingly well made. “Part of the appeal of this affecting and powerful drama is that it puts the viewer right in the moment at every stage, using authentic locations and tsunami survivors to hammer home the reality of this tragedy.” A 2D film (English) at Airport Plaza, Thai-dubbed at Vista.

Now Is Good: UK, Drama – A girl dying of leukemia (Dakota Fanning) compiles a list of things she’d like to do before passing away. Topping the list is her desire to lose her virginity. And try drugs. With the help of a friend she sets the list in motion. While her family deals with fear and grief, each in their own way, she explores a whole new world. Falling in love with her new neighbor wasn’t on the list, but it proves to be the most exhilarating experience of them all. Early reviews: Mixed or average, saying Fanning gives a truly impressive and memorable performance, but the film presses the obvious buttons so hard that you feel totally manipulated. “Take a box of hankies.” Shown only at Vista, in 2D (English).

Hotel Transylvania: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family – A fun film and funny enough for me to enjoy, and with some excellent purely serviceable animation, overseen by the talented Emmy-award animator Genndy Tartakovsky and Sony Pictures Animation. It’s the story of Dracula’s lavish five-stake hotel, where monsters and their families can live it up, free to be the monsters they are without humans to bother them. This particular weekend, Dracula has as guests Frankenstein and his wife, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, a family of werewolves, and more – all to celebrate his daughter’s 118th birthday. With the voice of the world’s most unfunny comic, Adam Sandler, as Dracula. He is not as obnoxious as usual (he’s definitely better drawn than seen), though he does manage, as is his habit, to introduce several flatulence jokes that are huge and gross. Mixed or average reviews, saying the proceedings have a buoyant, giddy tone which may please children, but might be a bit too loud and thinly-scripted for older audiences. Shown both as a 3D film (English) and a 2D film (Thai-dubbed) at Airport Plaza; shown in 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Vista.

Rise of the Guardians 3D: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – A strange and discomfiting film which just may be one of the most brilliant animated films of our time. But it’s not a barrel of laughs, instead quite the contrary — it is dark and forbidding alternating with bright and enchanting. Maybe once moviegoers are over the shock, its true qualities will be more appreciated. It tells the story of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost – legendary characters with previously unknown extraordinary abilities, along with dark sides and hang-ups. Has a voice cast including Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, and Chris Pine. Mixed or average reviews, saying it’s wonderfully animated and briskly paced, and full of delight and action and charm and comedy, but only so-so in the storytelling department. A 3D film (English) at Airport Plaza, 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Vista.

Super Salary Man / Yod Manut Nguen Duen: Thai, Drama – The daily life of office workers who struggle to balance their personal lives with career goals. In 2D (English subtitles) at Airport Plaza, regular 2D (Thai only) at Vista.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2: US, Adventure/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance – I have to say that if you’re at all a fan of the series this will prove a very satisfactory conclusion indeed. It rather brilliantly solves the problem of how to have a violent ending and a peaceful ending both at the same time. The scenery is fabulous, the wolves amazing, and though I shouldn’t go so far as to say that the trees are more interesting than the actors, they are (at least pretty much). Except for Michael Sheen, who once upon a time played Tony Blair so brilliantly, and who here plays the epitome of a behind-the-scenes wizard. Acting like a grand diva, he gives an acting lesson on how to chew up scenery, how to go over the top. Just delightful, and at one point he utters the most fantastical semi-human speech sound I’ve ever heard in a movie!

It’s a huge hit; after three weeks it’s already the second biggest film of the year in Thailand. In this fifth film of the franchise, the existence of Bella and Edward’s child Renesmee has attracted the attention of the volatile Volturi, who seem to want nothing more than to take down the Cullen family and end their reign of looking fabulous in the sun. Surely you know by now if this series is for you; trust your instincts. Mixed or average reviews, saying though it might be the most enjoyable chapter in the series that won’t be enough to make the movie worth watching for those who don’t already count themselves fans. One reviewer admitted, “The big action scene is so campily over the top – with one twist so unforeseeable – that it sent me out on a burst of grudging goodwill.” A 2D film in English at Airport Plaza (though it’s not playing every day), Thai-dubbed at Vista.

Rak Jab Jai: Thai, Musical/ Romance – A film of the popular stage musical/ romance which played in Bangkok last summer. A story about a superstar who falls for a blind girl, starring true-life Thai superstar from Chiang Mai Sukrit Wisetkaew (better known as Bie). Purely a filmed stage production, in Thai only, and only at Airport Plaza.

3 A.M. 3D: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – A chiller set in the middle of the night, when, the film believes, ghosts come out. Comprises three separate short stories of the spooky variety from three Thai directors. Reports are they are scary indeed. In 3D (English subtitles) at Airport Plaza; no longer at Vista.

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

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


 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Now playing in Chiang Mai through December 26

Now playing in Chiang Mai through December 19.

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