Let’s go to the movies – Friday August 5 – August 11, 2011

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Now playing in Pattaya

Captain America: The First Avenger: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Really a lot of old-fashioned fun, and by old I mean a steady camera- not jiggly as is the current fashion, and action you can follow rather than a blur of images.  And solid, confident film-making, so you feel that you’re in the hands of experts.  And an old time, World War II era with a terrific and detailed evocation of the time and the wartime mood.  And a good, old-fashioned Hollywood musical number.

After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.  Three cheers for the Red, White, and Blue!!  Has fine performances by Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and several others.

How did the moviemakers get Chris Evans so skinny to begin with?  No, not diet.  Not a body double, with Evans’ head superimposed.  It was done by computer – a variation of the program that shows how a person ages.  This one simply showing how a person would look much skinnier, based on how he looks now.  This was applied to all the shots of Evans as a 97-lb weakling, but this created a problem.  All around him was empty space where his body used to be, but with no information on how to fill it up.  This meant they had to shoot all these early scenes against a blue screen, so the background could be added later.  So the real Chris Evans is the muscular one, and the skinny one is a trick.

Way at the end, after the seemingly endless credits, there are secret scenes from future films in the series.  I’m looking forward to them.

Playing in both 2D and 3D versions in English at Pattaya Beach, in 2D and English at Major, and in 3D and Thai-dubbed at Big C.  Generally favorable reviews.

Horrible Bosses: US, Comedy/ Crime – It’s been called a bouncy, well-built, delightfully nasty tale of resentment, desperation, and amoral revenge.  Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jason Bateman, and Kevin Spacey are nasty, uneven, and funny.  Rated R in the US for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug material.  Mixed or average reviews.  Major Cineplex only, in Digital (but not 3D).

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: (Scheduled) US, Action/ Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Set in present day San Francisco, the film is a reality-based cautionary tale, a science fiction/science fact blend, where man’s experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes, and the onset of a war for supremacy.  This is a reboot of the original Planet of the Apes film series.  It will start fresh with a new continuity.  Using great advances in the performance- capturing technology pioneered in Avatar, this is the first in the series where the apes are not played by costumed actors, but are something much more realistic – I mean truly; just wait till you see them!  With Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, and James Franco.  (And stay through the credits!)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – Go see it.  You know you will eventually anyway.  This, the final Harry Potter, is an exciting and massively eventful finale that will grip and greatly please anyone who has been at all a fan of the series up to now.  It’s powerfully acted and visually dazzling.  The entire series of Potter books and motion pictures has been leading us to this final showdown between Harry and Voldemort.  The fight here between good and evil is more than satisfying. It’s thrilling – carrying an ultimate message that will resonate with every viewer, young or old: there is darkness in all of us, but we can overcome it.

It’s much better than the book, in my opinion, which has sections that are so preposterous that no amount of suspension of disbelief can overcome.  Playing now only in a 2D version at all three cinemas, in English except at Big C, where it’s Thai-dubbed.  Reviews: one of the rare films to be labeled by Metacritic as “Universal acclaim.”

The Moon (Pumpuang Duangjan): Thai, Drama/ Musical – The biography of Pumpuang Duangjan, considered the Queen of Thai country music.  The rags-to-riches story charts her successes in the 1980’s up to her early death in 1992 at the age of 31.  One of the most anticipated Thai films of the year, and with a newcomer in the starring role.  Prettified as biography, with reportedly anything that shows anyone in a bad light changed or deleted.

Wu xia / Swordsmen / Dragon: Hong Kong, Action/ Drama – Invariably described as a martial arts version of David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, with violence so intense as to rate 18+ in Thailand, this is nevertheless definitely a thinking man’s action film.  Reviews give high marks to director Peter Chan and star Donnie Yen.  What a shame that films of this type always arrive here in dreadful Thai-dubbed versions and without any English subtitles, thus preventing these sometimes excellent films from being appreciated by large portions of a potential audience.  Thai-dubbed only.  Not at Major. 18+.

The Lost Bladesman: Hong Kong, Action/ Biography/ Drama/ History – This historical martial arts film set in AD 200 is adapted from the story of Guan Yu crossing five passes and slaying six generals, as told in Luo Guanzhong’s historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  Most reviewers claim it’s confusing, some admit to not understanding a thing, but being very impressed with the fine balance between sweeping epic and intimate personal drama.  With superstar Donnie Yen, in a second film this week.  Generally favorable reviews.  Another interesting film that’s unfortunately Thai-dubbed only; only at Major.

Hanna: (Still scheduled) US, Action/ Crime/ Mystery – A really weird one, sort of a cross between a Euro Art Film and an ass-kicking female action flick like those of Thailand’s own Jeeja (Chocolate).  Hanna (played by Saoirse Ronan) is a teenage girl with the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a solider; these come from being raised by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland.  Her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin.  The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Cate Blanchett).  An odd film with odd actions done for obscure reasons, but entertaining and intriguing.  Generally favorable reviews.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – The opening 12 or so minutes I think is magnificent movie-making: exciting and provocative, beautifully shot, great story, involving.  Then we get the titles and the beginning of the story of the two stars, the incredibly irritating Shia LaBeouf and his girlfriend played by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who is dreadful.  The movie falls to pieces in my eyes whenever their story is front and center, only to be further undermined by the silly and incredibly noisy battles of the tinker toys.  Set against the space race between the USSR and the USA, the film re-imagines the reasons for the race.

This has been a big 2D and 3D spectacular at all Pattaya locations, and has been continuing in 3D at Pattaya Beach in its new second cinema devoted to digital 3D films.  In 2D at the other locations, and Thai-dubbed at Big C.  The 3D is the best I’ve seen since Avatar.  A lot of care went into that aspect by the studio and director Michael Bay. Mixed or average reviews.

Gancore Gud: Thai, Comedy/ Horror – Usual Thai horror-comedy mix of boobs and severed limbs, this time with gangsta rap.  It’s written and directed by hip-hop guru Joey Boy and stars him and his hip-hop group Gancore Club.  The group is stuck on a remote island, where their paradise turns to horror as they encounter bloody islanders who love to kill people, and zombies that rise up from the sea.  In Thai only at Big C, English subtitles elsewhere.  Rated 18+.