Let’s go to the movies – Friday March 23 – March 29, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

The Grey: US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Thriller – More and more I’m thinking of this as a “must-see” film.  It certainly has come as a surprise – a film that’s spiritual, frightening, heartfelt, and thrilling.  It’s a tale of survival, populated with fleshed-out characters, and within a surprising philosophical framework.  I was truly frightened at several points, with my heart (what’s left of it, after a bypass) pounding.  Full of astonishing sequences, spectacular cinematography, excellent performances, and heartfelt ruminations on mortality, faith, masculinity, hope, family, and existence.  It also has really cool wolves.  Stars Liam Neeson.  Rated R in the US for violence/ disturbing content, including bloody images, and for pervasive language; 13+ in Thailand.  Generally favorable reviews, some of which have been extraordinary in their philosophical reflections.  In English; not showing at Big C. (Warning: Sit all the way through the closing credits. There’s one more scene – extremely short – at the very end.) Highly recommended.

Moneyball: US, Biography/ Drama/ Sport – A baseball tale about the US’ national obsession with the sport.  Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane puts together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.  Stars Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, and Jonah Hill.  Reviews: “Universal acclaim.”  Extraordinarily high ratings, right up there with “The Artist,” and a higher score than “Tree of Life” or “Hugo.”  I really don’t understand it.  Sure, Brad Pitt is charming, granted – and the movie pleasant and well-constructed.  But a nomination for the Oscar Best Film?  Come on.  Five other Oscar nominations too, including Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), and Best Adapted Screenplay.  This is a 2D film, at Pattaya Beach only.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax 3D: (Scheduled) US, Adventure/ Animation – A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams.  To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.  A delightful plea for saving Nature.  Mixed or average reviews.

Mirror Mirror: US, Adventure/ Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy – A retelling of the Snow White tale with some surprising twists.  Julia Roberts plays the Evil Queen, Lily Collins plays Snow White, Armie Hammer is the Prince, and the outstanding comic Nathan Lane plays a long-suffering servant of the Evil Queen.  With the Indian director Tarsem Singh, who did “The Immortals” last year.  No reviews yet (it doesn’t open in the rest of the world till next week) but the previews look intriguing.  This is a 2D film, in English at Pattaya Beach and Major, Thai-dubbed at Big C.

This Means War: US, Action/ Comedy/ Romance – Two CIA agents, Tuck and Frank, who are also best friends, have been benched because someone’s after them.  Tuck is divorced and Frank is a ladies’ man.  Tuck decides to try and find someone, so he places his profile on a dating website.  Lauren, a woman also looking for a guy sees Tuck’s profile and goes with him.  She later bumps into Frank and he hits on her and she goes out with him.  She’s intrigued by both of them.  When they learn that they’re dating the same girl, they agree to let her choose.  But both can’t help but use their spy skills to keep tabs on her and each other.  And also sabotage each other’s dates with her.  Stars Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy.  Rated R in the US for some sexual content.  Generally unfavorable reviews.  This is a 2D film in English, regular at Pattaya Beach and Big C, Digital at Major.

407 Dark Flight 3D: (Scheduled) Thai, Horror/ Thriller – Thailand’s first 3D horror movie tells of the shocking experience of a senior flight attendant who has to deal with a supernatural event and mystery on a flight, as the passengers begin to die one by one.

John Carter: US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi – I saw this in 3D and was quite taken with it – and the 3D was quite excellent.  As an old-fashioned pulp-magazine adventure tale, it can’t be beat.  No science in this Sci-Fi film, just fantasy, and very well done indeed.  You need to let the kid inside you see this; park your maturity at the door.  It’s a richly imagined and often spectacular realization of a classic pulp novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians.  Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.  Directed by Pixar director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL•E) in his first live-action film, and it’s a solid achievement in the genre.  In both 2D and 3D at Pattaya Beach (English); 2D at Major (English); 2D at Big C (Thai-dubbed).

Chronicle: UK/ US, Action/ Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading to their developing uncanny powers beyond their understanding.  As they learn to control their abilities and use them to their advantage, their lives start to spin out of control, and their darker sides begin to take over.  Rated R in the US for some violence; 13+ in Thailand.  Generally favorable reviews, saying that though it arrives during a glut of found-footage films, this film transcends its gimmicks with a smart script, fast-paced direction, and engaging performances from its young, talented cast. Not at Big C.

Mae Nak 3D: Thai, Horror – Mae Nak Phrakhanong is one of Thailand’s most enduring figures of horror and despair, and the ghost legend has been told many times in many forms.  Here, she gets the 3D treatment.  My Thai film guru Wise Kwai says: “Dull.”  At Big C only, in 3D, Thai-only.

Rak Sud Teen: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – A handsome playboy in a bike rider gang runs a jeans stall at the night market under Put Bridge.  He’s a womanizer (a new role for star Mario Maurer) and swears not to fall in love.  But destiny has other plans and has him meet a beautiful girl, and despite his bravado, it’s love at first sight.  Mario Maurer is probably Thailand’s Number One heartthrob.  Here he’s pretty rough for a change, and not very polite.  English subtitles at Big C, Thai-only at Pattaya Beach.  Not at Major.

Rak Aow Yu: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – Director Poj Arnon is certainly one for seizing opportunities for films direct from the headlines.  Last year it was the aborted fetuses scandal, this time it’s the Bangkok flooding.  The title comes from the oft-repeated government phrase during the flooding “Aow Yu” meaning “We can handle it.”  I’m told the title also has a sexual meaning, but surely not!  Poj rushed his actors and his film crew out into the raging Bangkok waters hurriedly while the waters were still high.  Actually, as we all know, he had plenty of time.  Stars the scandal-plagued actor Film (Rattapoom Tokongsub) who was dragged through the mud of an unauthorized paternity or something last year, and went very quickly from star to pariah.  However, not to worry, it’s all for laughs.  Not at Major; Thai-only at Big C.

Act of Valor: US, Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – An elite team of highly trained Navy SEALs embark on a heart-stopping secret operation.  It’s an impressive film about professional warriors in the age of global terrorism.  Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh collaborated with the US Navy and actual Navy SEALs to give the film an accurate sense of battle tactics and environment.  Though the SEALs’ lack something in the way of acting skills, this is more than made up for by honest performances from men who actually do this stuff for a living.  Rated R in the US for strong violence, including some torture, and for language; 18+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews.  In English except Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Thriller – Don’t underestimate the appeal of Nicolas Cage! He keeps riding along week after week for five weeks now as the Ghost Rider in yet another impossible outing, and racking up huge amounts of money and presumably satisfied customers.  This time the Ghost Rider is in Eastern Europe and must stop the devil, who is trying to take human form.  Generally unfavorable reviews, saying it has a weak script and uneven CG work, with Cage giving another loony performance that’s no longer much fun – except for your average moviegoer, who thinks he’s great.  No longer in 3D and down now to only one cinema (as of last Wednesday), Major.