Let’s go to the movies – Fri 18 – 24 Feb 2011

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Now playing in Pattaya

Takers: US, Action/ Comedy/ Crime – What the Takers take, is money, lots of it, in various skillful robberies of banks or armored cars.  You should like the film if you enjoy exciting and noisy action pictures with plenty of chases.  Also if you like rappers, because one major star is bad-boy rapper T.I. (also known as T.I.P. and “Rubberband Man”), who is in real life fresh out of jail after serving a year and a day for attempting to purchase a small arsenal of assault weapons.  Definitely a cool character.  At the other end of the spectrum is Matt Dillon as a thoroughly experienced cop determined to bring the gang down.  Not at Major.  Mixed or average reviews.

Hereafter: US, Drama/ Fantasy – That redoubtable director and notable old man, Clint Eastwood, is still making terrific movies at age 80!  This is his latest effort, and it’s a good one.  Matt Damon is one of three people Eastwood studies, each with a different experience of an aspect of life after death.  What do these people believe, what causes them to think that way, and what is the truth?  Fascinating dramas on the topic, well done.  Mixed or average reviews, but I found it solid and fascinating.  Catch it while you can!  At Major Cineplex only.

The Green Hornet 3D: US, Action/ Comedy/ Crime – A strange piece, designed to be nothing but a thoughtless piece of fluff.  As such, it’s okay.  Seth Rogen as the Hornet is an unlikely and uncomfortable super-hero, and rather a distasteful gent.  Cameron Diaz serves up the romantic interest nicely, and the unrestrained pleasure is the arch-villain played by Christoph Waltz, the Austrian actor who took the film world by storm by his marvelous portrayal of a Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds.

Of special interest to Asians is the role of the hero’s sidekick Cato, played by Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou.  He does acquit himself well in this – his slight acting skills and his shaky use of English is underplayed, and to cover we are served a number of funny sight gags and some impressive martial arts.  The whole thing is a bit of a mish-mash and slight, but if you approach it with a relaxed and uncritical frame-of-mind, you will find it entertaining enough.

Generally unfavorable reviews.  In 2D everywhere, and at Pattaya Beach there’s also a 3D version (but it’s nothing exceptional); the Big C version is Thai-dubbed only.

I Am Number Four: (Scheduled) US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller: John is an extraordinary teen, masking his identity and passing as a typical high school student to elude a deadly enemy seeking to destroy him.  Three like him have already been killed … he is Number Four.

Let the Bullets Fly: (Scheduled) China, Action/ Comedy: Set in China during the warring 1920s, notorious bandit chief Zhang descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, an identity that he had hijacked from Old Tang, himself a small-time imposter.  Hell-bent on making a fast buck, Zhang soon meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues.  With Chow Yun Fat and Wen Jiang, written and directed by Wen Jiang.  The film is hugely popular in China, and is on the verge of being China’s biggest box-office hit.

Panya Raenu: (Scheduled) Thai, Comedy/ Drama: Panya Raenu is a story of friendship and dream that centers on a young boy named Panya who has a talent for singing, but is too poor to afford a local music contest.  However, with his determination and the support of his friends, Panya hopes to win the contest.

The Rite: US, Drama/ Horror/ Thriller – Anthony Hopkins looks to be at his spooky best again as the filmmakers trot out the well-worn possessed/ exorcism/ priest scenario.  If one can believe such things, this is “inspired by true events.”  We follow a skeptical seminary student (Colin O’Donoghue) as he reluctantly attends exorcism school at the Vatican, and while in Rome, he meets an unorthodox priest (Hopkins) who introduces him to the darker side of his faith.  Generally unfavorable reviews.

No Strings Attached: (Scheduled) US, Comedy/ Romance – To gauge from the previews, this film is likely to get the blatant smut award of the year, but at least the raunch is clever and cheerful.  Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, and Kevin Kline. Rated R in the US for sexual content, language, and some drug material.  Mixed or average reviews.

Shaolin / New Shaolin Temple: Hong Kong/ China, Action/ Drama – A story of Shaolin monks who protect and shelter civilians during war, this is a beautifully photographed, finely acted big budget spectacle that doesn’t rely on star power and action to deliver the goods, but actually is a thinking man’s film on the philosophical aspects of Buddhism. Unfortunately, it’s shown in Thailand only in a Thai-dubbed version.  Starring Jackie Chan and Andy Lau.

The Tourist: US, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – A thoroughly enjoyable espionage caper/ romance.  Highly recommended, if you don’t go expecting an action-packed film with Jolie kicking butt.  Here Angelina Jolie is demure, however deadly, and we don’t see her tattoos.  She and Johnny Depp come on as two stars having a bit of fun together in an enchanting story and script, deceptive on several levels. It’s a kind of espionage caper that’s visually sensuous, made with tender attention to detail, and an elegant, understated sense of humor.  See it!  Generally unfavorable reviews.  At Pattaya Beach only, if still playing.

Teng Nong Jiwon Bin: Thai, Action/ Comedy – A comedy about a pilgrim and a wealthy jeweller whose destiny has brought them to meet on a plane and then encounter unexpected events.  The formula for your run-of-the-mill Thai comedy – of which this looks to be a prime example – seems to be: Assemble a cast of popular TV and cafe comics, have a grain of an idea for a plot or a genre (horror, romance, or farcical action, or all three), and then say “action!”

Maybe?

Should any of the following arrive, grab the chance and see it:

The Fighter: US, Biography/ Drama/ Sport – Highly praised film up for Oscar best picture, director (David O. Russell), actor in a supporting role (Christian Bale), two actresses in a supporting role (Amy Adams and Melissa Leo), best adapted screenplay, and best editing.  A drama about boxer “Irish” Micky Ward’s unlikely road to the world light welterweight title.  His Rocky-like rise was shepherded by half-brother Dicky, a boxer-turned-trainer who rebounded in life after nearly being KO’d by drugs and crime.  With Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, giving two outstanding performances.  I found it riveting and rousing, and somewhat unpleasant.  Mark Wahlberg’s ring sequences are the real thing, and need to be seen to be believed.  This film is close to Wahlberg’s heart (he is one of the producers, waived his own salary) and he began training for the role in 2005.  Throughout the various production delays, Wahlberg continued to train every day so that he could be ready for filming.  Filming finally began in July 2009, and what he does in the ring is very believable.

The unpleasantness comes from the family, who live more like bickering animals than humans.  I would have to take away from this film the lesson that devotion to one’s family can very often be the worst possible path one could take.  Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality.  Generally favorable reviews.  Apparently at Major Cineplex only, if it shows.

Fair Game: US, Biography/ Drama/ Thriller – Taut and exciting tale of dirty deeds by the White House.  Director Doug Liman’s fact-based drama of former US ambassador Joseph Wilson; his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson; and the events of 2003, when her identity as a CIA operative was leaked in retaliation by the White House after her husband wrote an op-ed piece criticizing the US invasion of Iraq. Generally favorable reviews.

The King’s Speech: UK/ Australia, Drama/ History – One of the top contenders for best picture and 11 other Oscars, this is the story of the suddenly crowned King George VI of England, who suffers from a debilitating speech impediment.  With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for her husband to see an eccentric speech therapist. Reviews: Universal acclaim.