Let’s go to the movies – Friday December 21 – December 27, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

Life of Pi: (Scheduled) US, Adventure/ Drama – Get ready for this experience!  You might also want to read the book.  (I found the book fascinating and irritating in equal measure.)  I am really looking forward to this: a deeply religious story everyone including the author considered unfilmable.

Pi is raised a Hindu, but as a fourteen-year-old he is introduced to Christianity and Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love god.”  The core of the story has Pi, now a beautiful young man, shipwrecked at sea for 227 days in the company of a fully-grown Bengal tiger.

At the moment seems to be a front-runner for the Oscar best picture.  Directed in 3D by Ang Lee.  Generally favorable reviews, saying it’s an astonishing technical achievement that’s also emotionally rewarding.

Cloud Atlas: Germany/ US/ Hong Kong/ Singapore, Drama/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi – Certainly you will not be bored by this film, as there are dazzling performances, directed with tremendous energy and imagination.  But schedule yourself to see it twice, as I found it perhaps the most complicated and ambitious film of recent years.

Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, all playing a variety of roles.  Rated R in the US for violence, language, sexuality/nudity, and some drug use; 18+ here.  Mixed or average reviews, saying its sprawling, ambitious blend of thought-provoking narrative and eye-catching visuals will prove too unwieldy for some, but the sheer size and scope are all but impossible to ignore. I agree, and I think you will want to see this daring and visionary film. It’s long, like about three hours.

In English, playing at Pattaya Beach and Major. Prepare to either work hard, or relax and enjoy. But do see it.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey / The Hobbit: Part 1: US/ New Zealand, Adventure/ Fantasy – Grand entertainment!  I think you’ll find this thoroughly enjoyable if you have liked any of the previous Middle Earth fantasies.  The filmmaking here is extraordinary, as is the storytelling.  Endlessly inventive and spectacular.  I saw it in 3D and urge you to do the same.  The film acts as a prelude to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, and is the first of a three-part film adaptation of the 1937 novel The Hobbit, to be followed by The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, due for theatrical release in Dec 2013 and Jul 2014, respectively.

It’s meticulously, even gorgeously, photographed, showing off the rich New Zealand countryside, and with a number of innovations to produce the last word in digital 3D filmmaking, including the use of HFR – High Frame Rate – filming at 48 frames per second (FPS), double the normal amount.  The increased number of frames results in more detailed image clarity, with less flicker and blur.  This version is available in Thailand, but not here in Pattaya, yet.

Generally favorable reviews, saying it’s visually resplendent and features strong performances from Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, but the film’s deliberate pace robs the material of some of its majesty.  Don’t agree with that last bit.  At all three locations it’s being shown in both 24 FPS 3D (English) and regular 24 FPS 2D (English, except Thai-dubbed at Big C).  Really long: 170 minutes – about the same as Cloud Atlas.  Nearly three hours.  But I didn’t mind or notice the length.  I completely enjoyed it.

The Impossible: Spain, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – “One of the most emotionally realistic disaster movies in recent memory — and certainly one of the most frightening in its epic re-creation of the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.”  A husband and wife and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand in 2004, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise.  But on the morning of December 26th, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the center of the earth.  The wife freezes in fear as a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward her.  Thus starts the most harrowing disaster movie in many a moon, combining a tremendous feat of physical filmmaking with an emotional true story of family survival.

Stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor; directed by the Spanish Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage).  Generally favorable reviews, saying it is wrenchingly acted, deftly manipulated, and terrifyingly well made.  “Part of the appeal of this affecting and powerful drama is that it puts the viewer right in the moment at every stage, using authentic locations and tsunami survivors to hammer home the reality of this tragedy.”  A 2D film (English) except Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Rise of the Guardians 3D: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – A strange and discomfiting film which just may be one of the most brilliant animated films of our time.  But it’s not a barrel of laughs, instead quite the contrary — it is dark and forbidding alternating with bright and enchanting.  Maybe once moviegoers are over the shock, its true qualities will be more appreciated.  I know it will take time for me to overcome my feeling that it’s just too creepy, with characters you would not want anywhere near children.

It tells the story of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost – legendary characters with previously unknown extraordinary abilities, but here with disturbing dark sides and hang-ups.  I say that if this scruffy Easter Bunny tries to foist an egg off on you, you should run for the hills!  Santa has “Naughty” tattooed on one arm, “Nice” on the other, bringing up not-so-pleasant recollections of the preacher in “Night of the Hunter.”  Worst of all is the Boogeyman, powerfully played by Jude Law, a terrifying presence whose motives are deep and vaguely perverse.

Mixed or average reviews, saying it’s wonderfully animated and briskly paced, and full of delight and action and charm and comedy, but only so-so in the storytelling department.  I don’t agree with that last comment.  In 3D (English) at Pattaya Beach, 3D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C; not playing at Major.

Hotel Transylvania: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family – With its sights firmly set much lower than Rise of the Guardians, it turns out to be more fun, with plenty of jokes to enjoy without thinking.  Has some excellent purely serviceable animation, overseen by the talented Emmy-award animator Genndy Tartakovsky and Sony Pictures Animation.  It’s the story of Dracula’s lavish five-stake hotel, where monsters and their families can live it up, free to be the monsters they are without humans to bother them.  This particular weekend, Dracula has as guests Frankenstein and his wife, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, a family of werewolves, and more – all to celebrate his daughter’s 118th birthday.

With the voice of the world’s most unfunny comic, Adam Sandler, as Dracula.  He is not as obnoxious as usual (he’s definitely better drawn than filmed), though he does manage, as is his habit, to introduce several flatulence jokes that are huge and gross.  Mixed or average reviews, saying the proceedings have a buoyant, giddy tone which may please children, but might be a bit too loud and thinly-scripted for older audiences.  Shown in 3D (English) at Pattaya Beach and 3D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C; not playing at Major.

Super Salary Man / Yod Manut Nguen Duen: Thai, Drama – The daily life of office workers who struggle to balance their personal lives with career goals.  The top film last week.  In 2D (English subtitles) at all three locations.

3 A.M. 3D: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – A chiller set in the middle of the night, when, the film believes, ghosts come out.  Comprises three separate short stories of the spooky variety from three Thai directors.  Reports are they are scary indeed.  In 3D (English subtitles) at Pattaya Beach; 2D (English subtitles) at Major; 2D (Thai only) at Big C.