Let's go to the movies - Friday January 20 - January 26, 2012

Friday, 20 January 2012 From Issue Vol. XX No. 3 By  Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Pattaya

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: US/ Sweden/ UK/ Germany, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – Though initially skeptical of this English remake of the stunning Swedish film, I have now seen it for a second time.  The film started out terribly for me, with a short prologue scene with its dialogue muttered to such a degree that I don’t understand a word of it.  Then the titles begin – the worst titles sequence I have ever witnessed.  Visually it is appalling with images impossible to grasp, presented so contortedly that I get a headache, and the soundtrack is the most dreadful cacophony I’ve ever heard in a film. 

I was in a state of anger and exhaustion when the film proper began, both times, hardly the state you would think a director would want.  Then the film starts out like a strung-out product placement/ advertisement for a certain specific brand of American cigarettes, which I didn’t appreciate.  Then it got into an unnecessarily confusing presentation of the back-story of how it is that this Swedish journalist, played by Daniel Craig, is disgraced and free to take on the particular investigation that is the core of the story – the solving of a forty-year-old murder case.

Nevertheless, as time went on, I was very slowly won over by the decidedly good aspects of this brutal and captivating film.  Quite good acting, some scenes quite gripping.  Rooney Mara is in general quite good as the young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, who has to be one of the most unique and vivid female protagonists ever created, first in the highly popular series of novels by Stieg Larsson, then in the trio of Swedish films made from them, and now here.  Also with Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, and Robin Wright.  The film is directed with increasing intensity by David Fincher (The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

On my second viewing I was particularly struck by the music (or sound design; the distinction is blurred here).  Though loathsome during the opening titles, it is fascinating and inventive most of the time, but with some sections I found immensely irritating.  And the digital cinematography is endlessly captivating.  I was able to better appreciate, second time around, the subtle use of the digital medium.  There are some distinctive and positive qualities in digital, and it is in the exploiting of these strengths  that the film truly excels.

Rated R in the US for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language. Generally favorable reviews.  At Pattaya Beach only, and in Digital (not 3D).

Contraband: US/ UK, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills.  With Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, and Kate Beckinsale.  Rated R in the US for violence, pervasive language, and brief drug use; 18+ in Thailand.  Not at Big C.  Mixed or average reviews, saying that, as mindless action capers go, this is a little less mindless than some.

Meung Gu: Thai, Action/ Drama – A story of friendship between two friends that leads people to think they’re involved with gangsters – and teenaged gangsters in Chiang Mai at that.  With heartthrob Mario Maurer (The Love of Siam), acting tough as a gang leader.  English subtitles at all locations.

Ruk Vei Hei / Rak Woei Hoei: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – A clumsy computer programmer has a crush on an attractive girl DJ, but he knows that with his clumsiness he wouldn’t have a chance to win her heart.  But, luckily for him, he finds an idiotic love guru who helps him accomplish his mission.  Looks like your average Thai comedy with your average stereotypes.  English subtitles at all locations.

Underworld 4: Awakening: (Scheduled.) US, Action/ Fantasy/ Horror – To gauge from the previews, it’s more of the same, so if you’ve been enthralled by the epic battle between Vampires and Lycans, as delineated so noisily and violently in the first three episodes, why this is for you.  Kate Beckinsale, star of the first two films, returns in the lead role as the vampire warrioress Selene, who escapes imprisonment to find herself in a world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans, and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species.  Rated R in the US for strong violence and gore, and for some language.  No reviews yet.

The Darkest Hour: US, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Stranded in Moscow, five young people lead the charge against an alien race who have attacked Earth via our power supply.  Starring Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby.  Reviews: Overwhelming dislike, saying it has a dead screenplay and not even a single compelling character.  Nevertheless, shown in Digital 3D at Major, 2D at Pattaya Beach, and both 2D-English and 2D-Thai-dubbed at Big C (as of this last Wednesday).

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate: China, Action/ Adventure – At the time of the story in the Ming Dynasty, the bad guys are the eunuchs of the Imperial Court, who have created their own unaccountable secret police.  Starring Jet Li and directed by the innovative Tsui Hark.  Touted by China as a cutting edge 3D film, it’s shown here in 2D, and Thai-dubbed only.  Now only at Big C, as of Wednesday.

The Adventures of Tintin: US/ New Zealand, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Family/ Mystery – Based on the series of classic comic books created by Belgian artist Hergé.  Steven Spielberg, as director and producer, has once again crafted what I think is a spirited, thrilling adventure using the latest motion-capture technology and wedding it to tried and true Spielberg story elements.  The story has the intrepid young reporter Tintin discovering directions to a sunken ship commanded by an ancestor of the brash and cynical (and alcoholic) Captain Haddock, and the two go off on a treasure hunt.  Generally favorable reviews.  In Digital 3D and English at Pattaya Beach, 2D and English at Major, and Digital 3D Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Real Steel: US/ India, Action/ Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Sport – A future-set story where robot boxing is a popular sport.  Yes, boxing matches between robots. There is some truly thrilling and exciting action, done very well indeed, as you would expect from a Steven Spielberg production.  The film uses motion capture technology of actual boxers for accuracy during the robot fights, supervised by no less than Sugar Ray Leonard.  I have to say that overall it is an amazingly entertaining film, with a thoroughly satisfying performance by the young boy, and the robots.  Mixed or average reviews; much better than you would think.  It’s a 2D film, in English everywhere except Big C, whose version is Thai-dubbed.

Sor Kor Sor Sweety / Bangkok Sweety: Thailand, Comedy/ Romance –  For the third year in a row now, in the last week of the year, the studio M-Thirtynine has released an absolute bottom of the barrel Thai RomCom that has been savaged by the press and hailed by the customers, with plenty of young Thai stars, and music and dancing.  They’ve all been hugely popular, and made a lot of money, so here we are again.  Thai soundtrack only all locations.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: US, Action/ Adventure/ Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller – Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty. Once again starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.  Face it, there’s no way there’s going to be a legitimate Holmes movie coming out these days. Surely not when the 2009 film made so much money.  Mixed or average reviews. Not at Big C.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol: US, Action/ Adventure/ Thriller –– I found this to be an exciting and intense action thriller, and of that kind of thing, very well-done indeed.  This, the fourth film in the popular series, again stars Tom Cruise, and he still exhibits his undeniable star-quality.  The IMF is shut down when it is implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name. It’s a 2D film, with some parts filmed in super high-definition Digital IMAX – though shown in IMAX only in Bangkok.  Even without an IMAX projector, the high definition of these scenes are impressive and spectacular.  But the whole film is a lot of fun.  Not at Big C.  Generally favorable reviews.

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