Let’s go to the movies – Friday 3 June – 9 June 2011

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Now playing in Pattaya

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.  Early reviews: generally favorable.  Film was never planned for 3D; the director, Matthew Vaughn, prefers 2D.

Insidious: (Scheduled) US, Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – A couple are still unpacking boxes in their family’s new home when the wife first senses a sinister presence.  Eerie events steadily escalate into supernatural attacks, until one day their oldest son slips into a mysterious coma.  A very scary and very fun haunted-house thrill ride by horror specialist James Wan, the boyish-looking director responsible for the Saw series, and member of the unofficial “Splat Pack” – directors who make brutally violent horror films.  Not so bloody here, just good old-fashioned scares.  See it!  Mixed or average reviews.

Kung Fu Panda 2: US, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, and Jackie Chan lend their voices to the characters in this sequel to the very popular first installment.  Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters.  But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu.  It is up to Po and his friends to journey across China to face this threat and vanquish it.  But how can Po stop a weapon that can stop kung fu?  Sounds awesome, and I thought the first film was a real hoot.  Generally favorable reviews, and the 3D has gotten some excellent comment.  The 3D version is only at Pattaya Beach, only 2D and Thai-dubbed elsewhere.

The Hangover Part II: US, Comedy – In this follow-up to the record-breaking The Hangover, the “Wolfpack” played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha travel here to “exotic” Thailand for a wedding.  After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, the Ed Helms character is taking no chances and has chosen a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch.  However, things don’t always go as planned.  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.  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.”  Thai-dubbed at Big C,  English elsewhere.

Pearn Mai Kao / Puen Mai Gao / Old Friends are Not / 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 landmark film Love of Siam.  The lead singer, the talented 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.  English subtitles except at Big C.

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.  Not at Major.

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.  This time, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) crosses paths with a woman from his past (a truly delightful Penelope Cruz), and he’s not sure if it’s love — or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth.  Very enjoyable – the stars are terrific, and the jokes and set pieces are funny and well done.  If you liked what went before in the series, 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 the 2D one.  Both versions are at Pattaya Beach, only 2D elsewhere, and the version at Big C is Thai-dubbed. Mixed or average reviews.

Ladda Land: Thai, Horror/ Mystery – A very popular Thai movie.  A family moves into a new house in a Chiang Mai housing development where the newcomers gradually begin to encounter horrifying paranormal events.  Rated 18+.  Now only at Pattaya Beach, if at all.

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.  As of yesterday it’s been showing in 3D at Major, 2D at Pattaya Beach; not at Big C.  The 3D is “conversion” 3D, and I think not that impressive.  Mixed or average reviews.

Thor: US, Action/ Fantasy – Directed by the top Shakespearian director of our time, Kenneth Branagh – slumming, as it were. I found it entertaining, a mixture of Shakespearean bombast and the usual – but fun-filled – blockbuster fare.  Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior-god as imagined by Marvel comics, is sent down to Earth as punishment for reigniting a reckless war.  Mixed or average reviews.  Only 2D now, only at Pattaya Beach, and may have departed completely.

Fast & Furious 5: US, Action/ Crime/ Drama – Vin Diesel and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again as they try to switch lanes between a ruthless drug lord and a relentless federal agent.  It’s a movie that’s proud of its brainless action thrills – sleek, loud, and over the top, and the most exciting of the series.  Generally favorable reviews.  At Big C it’s Thai-dubbed only.