Let’s go to the movies – Friday 15 – 21 April 2011

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Now playing in Pattaya

Source Code: US/ France, Mystery/ Romance/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – A film everyone is raving about.  I can personally verify that it’s simply terrific in all ways as a thriller and mystery.  It stars an excellent Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.  A younger brother to Inception, it has the complex infrastructure of top-tier science fiction.  Gripping, well directed, well acted, highly recommended.  Generally favorable reviews.  Thai-dubbed at Big C.

King Naresuan Part III: Naval Battle: Thai, Drama/ War – The third chapter (of at least four chapters) of the King Naresuan epic, continuing the story of Thai’s chivalric king and warrior in the Ayudhya era who fought against the invasion of Burmese troops that aimed to overpower the Ayudhya Kingdom.  The filming of the story of King Naresuan began in 2002 and is still continuing on the huge set built in Kanchanaburi (and which is open to the public as a sort of theme park).  Nearly the whole army garrison in Kanchanaburi is in the movie as extras, plus hundreds of elephants, horses, and other animals.  Sort of a 10-year public works project for the province.

For sure the film is spectacular, and the production aspects are superbly rendered: the costumes, the sets, the set decoration.  All of that shows a lot of research in the design, and much skill and craftsmanship in execution.  If the emotions and plot seem wooden, remember the difficulty in creating a drama that offends absolutely no one (with the single exception of the Burmese; that’s allowed.).  The film is rated “P” for “Promote” – meaning the Thai government has given it its seal of approval, and everyone should go see it.  The Bangkok Post’s critic, Kong Rithdee, said the “P” should rather stand for “Pedestrian.”  But it is spectacular – for all that money, it had better be.

Mindfulness and Murder / Sop-mai-ngeap: Thai, Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller – When a homeless youth is murdered on the grounds of a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok, the police do little to investigate, leaving Father Ananda – a former homicide detective – to try and solve the crime.  With the help of an orphaned boy named Jak, Ananda travels the canals of the city to unravel the clues and catch the killer.  Written and directed by Tom Waller.  Nicely captures the mood and details of life in a temple in an interesting story.

Hop: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy – Blending state-of-the-art animation with live action, it tells the comic tale of an average semi-lazy guy (James Marsden) who accidentally injures the Easter Bunny’s teen-aged son (voiced by Russell Brand) and must take him in as he recovers.  As he struggles with the world’s worst houseguest, “both will learn what it takes to finally grow up” – or so it says here.  Looks sort of like fun.  Mixed or average reviews.  Not at Big C.

Scream 4: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – Ten years have passed, and Sidney Prescott, who has put herself back together thanks in part to her writing, is visited by the Ghostface Killer, and the horror starts all over again.  Gentle, grandfatherly, scholarly Wes Craven, revisits his horror franchise.  Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, and – worst of all – some teen drinking.

Sucker Punch: US/ Canada, Action/ Fantasy/ Thriller – The most imaginative film since Inception.  A young girl (Baby Doll) is institutionalized – locked away in a mental asylum by her wicked stepfather – where she will undergo a lobotomy in five days time.  It’s an adolescent boys’ sex fantasy on top of an ugly story of a life so bad it drives the heroine into psychosis.  In this case, however, it’s a shared psychosis with four other girls, and the “quests” they have in the psychotic world have repercussions in their real lives.  It would be the easiest thing in the world to make fun of Sucker Punch, and I daresay it’s doomed to be ridiculed for years to come, and yet have an influence on future films that will surprise everyone.  I loved it.  It’s bizarre, but unique and wonderful – a gritty, violent, fantasy-based, primarily female-driven story.  Generally unfavorable reviews.  Not at Big C.

World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles: (Scheduled) US,  Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Here the invaders are aliens, and I guess the movie is designed to show how Marines would likely handle an attack from extra-terrestrials.  Marines from Camp Pendleton helped train the actors for their roles, educating them in the Marine way of doing things.  A number of actual Marines also appear as extras in the film, and as an example of how tough the training was, note that Aaron Eckhart, playing a Marine staff sergeant, broke his arm during the filming.  I enjoyed Eckhart in this film, felt it was a good performance.  And I thought it all a good action film.  It may be overlong and not very original, but it is exciting.  Generally unfavorable reviews.

Ha Zard: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – When a university of comedians is facing a downturn and all its comedians are endangered, some comedy students team up to save everyone’s careers.  Has at least a cameo from every comic in Thailand, plus excessive excrement and flatulence comedy routines – so very popular.  Some really gross stuff.

No Strings Attached: 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.  A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it’s not long before they learn that they want something more. The studio puts it this way: “In this comedy, Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are life-long friends who almost ruin everything by having sex one morning.  In order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly “no strings attached.” The questions become – Can you have sex without love getting in the way?  And can their friendship survive?”  Rated R in the US for sexual content, language, and some drug material – but only rated 15+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Pattaya Beach only.

Vanishing on 7th Street: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – An apocalyptic thriller/ horror about a seemingly global blackout that causes countless populations to simply vanish, leaving only their clothes and possessions behind.  A small handful of survivors band together in a dimly-lit tavern on 7th Street, struggling to combat the horror.  Long sections build a nice sense of dread and mystery.  With Hayden Christensen and John Leguizamo.  Rated R in the US for language.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Pattaya Beach only, unless it’s vanished.

Beastly: US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance – A modern-day take on the “Beauty and the Beast” tale where a New York teen is transformed into a hideous monster in order to find true love.  Except that he’s not hideous at all.  The ugliness is so cool as to be most attractive, losing the point of the whole exercise.  Starring Alex Pettyfer, late of I Am Number Four, as the Robert Pattinson-look-similar (to appeal to the young girls again who like the Twilight series).  Widely divergent opinions, so “mixed or average” reviews with the emphasis on “mixed.”  At Pattaya Beach only.

Gnomeo and Juliet 3D:  (Shown in digital 3D) UK/ US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy/ Romance – A version of Shakespeare’s play, set in the world of warring indoor and outdoor gnomes.  Garden gnomes Gnomeo (voice of James McAvoy) and Juliet (voice of Emily Blunt) have as many obstacles to overcome as their namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Pattaya Beach only.

SuckSeed: Thai, Comedy/ Musical – Tells the story of teenage boys who form a rock band called SuckSeed just to impress the girls.  But things get complicated when a girl joins the group.  A definite hit.  Only at Pattaya Beach, if at all.