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Let's Go To The Movies  by Mark Gernpy


Now playing in Chiang Mai through June 8

European Union Film Festival of 22 recent films to be shown at Vista, July 22 to 31. This year free admission!

X-Men: First Class: US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Smart, spectacular, often thrilling, always incredibly entertaining – they seem to have done everything right with this one. Following the classic Marvel mythology, the film charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their extraordinary mutant powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were the closest of friends, working together with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world had ever known. Includes the gifted actor (in my opinion) Kevin Bacon in one of his too-rare film appearances. Also features President John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, in a re-imagining of that near-catastrophic standoff. Generally favorable reviews. Film was never planned for 3D; the director, Matthew Vaughn, prefers 2D. English at Airport Plaza, Thai-dubbed at Vista.

Kung Fu Panda 2: US, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – This is really good! The animation is great, in a couple of distinct styles, including shadow puppets. And it’s funny – I especially got a kick out of Dustin Hoffman this time around, voicing the local guru-mystic – hilarious!. Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, and Jackie Chan are among others in a stellar cast who lend their voices to the characters in this sequel to the very popular first installment. Po the Panda's new life of awesomeness as the Dragon Warrior is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. Po and his friends must journey across China to face this threat and vanquish it. An awesome film, as much a hoot as the first film, but with a dark and adult side to it as well, dealing with serious personal issues, and a resolution that’s genuinely emotional and satisfying. Go see it! Generally favorable reviews. Airport Plaza has both 3D and 2D versions; at Vista it’s 2D and Thai-dubbed. The 3D is reportedly a solid and impressive job; I saw it in 2D. 

The Hangover 2: US, Comedy – Wheeo! Don’t know about this. You might find it amusing, but I didn’t like it at all, even though I have to admit I laughed a few times. In general I thought it just too crass to be fun. In this follow-up to the record-breaking The Hangover, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis – whose “acting”  I am beginning to hate), and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel here to “exotic” Thailand for Stu's wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don’t always go as planned, and they have another alcoholic blackout and come to in Bangkok. They only slowly find out what they did. Rated R in the US for pervasive language, strong sexual content, including graphic nudity, drug use, and brief violent images; 18+ in Thailand. According to US watchdogs, the film contains about 113 F-words and its derivatives, 1 obscene hand gesture, 19 sexual references, 18 scatological terms, 23 anatomical terms, 14 mild obscenities, 1 derogatory term for homosexuals, 6 racial slurs, 1 religious profanity, 24 religious exclamations, and sequences featuring a ping pong ball (though this last was present only during the ending credits). Mixed or average reviews, but the Bangkok Post’s reviewer, Kong Rithdee, is really angry over this film, calling it “vulgar and stupid, cinematically, geographically, and culturally.” I concur. Airport Plaza only.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy – The latest in this great pop series, with a shipful of grand scenery-chewing British star swashbucklers, and directed this time by Rob Marshall (Chicago), for a fresh perspective. Here, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) crosses paths with a woman from his past (a delightful Penelope Cruz), and he's not sure if it's love, or if she's a ruthless con artist. Very enjoyable – the stars are terrific and the jokes and set pieces are funny and well done. If you liked the series before, you’ll like it again. The only real problem is with the light intensity, which is way too dark most of the time, in my opinion and that of a huge number of complainers writing in reviews and blogs. I saw the 2D version and it just has to be much worse in 3D as things in 3D tend to be much darker and muddier than in 2D. Perhaps because of this, the attendance figures for the movie are quite disappointing to the studio, and viewers tend to bypass the 3D version and see it in 2D. Mixed or average reviews. In 2D at Vista, in both at Major, and Vista also has a Thai-dubbed version.

Norwegian Wood: Japan, Drama/ Romance – This is a truly beautiful film directed by one of the top Asian directors, the Vietnamese Anh Hung Tran, responsible for such films as The Scent of Green Papaya and Vertical Ray of the Sun. This time he is directing a Japanese film with Japanese actors in a story from Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. The title refers to the Beatles melancholic song, which causes the lead character to reminisce about the tragic death of a friend. It stars one of my favorite actors, the superb Kenichi Matsuyama (also currently playing at Vista in Gantz: Part II, and who was “L” in the Death Note series). He is at the top of his form in this film, and I have to say that the physicality of his lovemaking scenes seemed incredibly real to me, especially the culminations. It’s a slow story, beautifully photographed, basically a weepy love story in the tragic mode, and with a female character who has seriously demented views of love and sex. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend you see it, for one reason only: the English subtitles are infuriating, and flicker in and out of legibility – but seem to always disappear completely just when you need them most. This is a real tragedy, because everything else about the film is so well done. I have to recommend you wait until you can see a DVD of this; the subtitles are sure to be better. The Thai subtitles don’t seem to be quite so bad. Rated 18+ in Thailand. In Japanese, with bad English and Thai subtitles. At Vista only.

Lao Wedding / Sabai Dee Wan Weewa: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – A magazine writer visits Lao, meets a Laotian girl, falls for her, and promises her he’ll return. When he does problems pop up, leading  to an unexpected marriage. With this film, director Sakchai Deenan completes his Sabaidee trilogy of cross-border romantic comedies which started in 2008 with Sabaidee Luang Prabang, starring Ananda Everingham. Vista only, Thai only.

Priest: US, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – There were things that I liked very much in this: the performance of its star Paul Bettany, an actor I admire; the visuals/ art direction, which were carefully and craftily done to establish a fine tense mood full of foreboding – and in general the sense of style throughout this essentially black and white film. It opens with a terrific animated short which explains the background of the film, establishes the role of the priests, and sets the scene of this alternate universe where vicious vampires have been at war with mankind for centuries. Mixed or average reviews. At Vista only.

Pearn Mai Kao / August Friends:  Thai, Comedy/ Drama – Five good friends take a bicycle trip from Bangkok to Lampang, where they will fulfill their vows. The five are members of the pop group August, featured in the film Love of Siam. The lead singer, Witwisit Hirunyawongkul, played Mew in that film, half of the male puppy-love couple, opposite Mario Maurer. He’s trying to project a tougher male image in this film by having a mustache; it doesn’t work. Only at Airport Plaza.

Gantz: Part II – Perfect Answer: Japan, Action/ Crime – The second installment of the two-part live action adaptation of the popular manga and anime: mostly a collection of pretty young things clad in tight black costumes shooting at, blowing up, and otherwise destroying anything that happens to be in their way. At Vista only, and Thai-dubbed only, which is a shame, because it is not without interest.

Do-Nut: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – Charlie Trairat of Fan Chan fame stars in this film as a young man very confused when a lesbian love seems to blossom  between his two closest girl-friends. At Airport Plaza only.

Fast & Furious 5: US, Action/ Crime/ Drama – Vin Diesel and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again. Brainless action thrills – sleek, loud, over the top, and the most exciting of the series. Generally favorable reviews. At Vista only and only in a Thai-dubbed version.

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Let's Go To The Movies