Let’s go to the movies – Friday May 25 – May 31, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

Men in Black III: US, Action/ Comedy/ Sci-Fi – An alien criminal kills the young Agent K in 1969, altering the timeline, changing the Agency, and placing the Earth in danger.  Veteran Agent J (Will Smith) must travel back in time to 1969 to before the murder and work with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save him, the Agency, the Earth, and humanity itself.  Also stars Tommy Lee Jones.  Early reviews: Mixed or average, saying it does justice to the fun and whimsy of the original, and gives a surprisingly emotional insight into the characters; a solid creature-feature filled with memorable performances and remarkable visual effects.  Converted to 3D in post-production.

The Cabin in the Woods: US, Horror/ Thriller – You should see this at least three times.  First time for the surprises.  Second time for the game of “spot that reference” to see how many of the eighty or so monsters you can recognize – as well as name the movie it was in.  (I’ve been really pestered by people asking me where the classroom of Japanese schoolgirls came from.  The girls are being attacked by a Sadako look-alike from the famous 1998 Japanese horror film Ring.)  Third time to ponder the philosophical proposition that humanity’s love of horror films is a necessary propitiation of the beasts that lie within our own breasts, to keep them at bay.

Yes, I loved it!  I think it’s a remarkably complicated and richly-layered play on the whole of the horror film literature.  Five teenagers head off for a weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods, as per usual.  They arrive to find they are quite isolated with no means of communicating with the outside world.  Per usual.  When the cellar door flings itself open, they of course go down to investigate.  They find an odd assortment of relics and curios, and when one of the women reads from a book she awakens a family of deadly zombie killers.  Then the film really takes off into numerous horror universes.

There’s far more going on than meets the eye – because the five campers are all under observation.  Written and produced by Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed the current The Avengers as well.  Rated R in the US for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use, and some sexuality/nudity; 18+ here.  Definitely not a movie for children, nor the squeamish or faint of heart.  Generally favorable reviews, which praise it as an astonishing meta-feat, capable of being funny, strange, and scary — frequently all at the same time.  It’s been described as “a final exam” for fans of the horror genre in the guise of a puzzle.  In 2D and English, except Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Iron Sky: US, Comedy/ Fantasy – When I first heard about this, my impulse was to tell you all to please don’t see it.  The very idea gave me the shivers.  Nazi’s hiding out on the far side of the moon since 1945, preparing a triumphant return to Earth.

But… the Nazi stuff really isn’t all that repellant, and in fact the people who will dislike the movie the most will be Sarah Palin supporters, because she really gets it.  She’s the US President, you see, when the Nazis attack.  (It’s the year 2018.)  She’s totally comfortable with this state of affairs, because she knows that every president who had a war in the first term was reelected.  (Sarah has redecorated the Oval Office with taxidermied specimens of endangered species, and one gigantic polar bear.) “Of course we lied to you,” she tells the UN.  “This is the United States, people.  That’s what we do.”

I found the film quite funny and imaginative, and the visuals – the CGI and the model-building – rather spectacular for a low-budget film.  It comes from a team of self-taught Finnish independent film makers lead by Timo Vuorensola as the director.  He built a web following with his previous culty sci-fi parody Star Wreck.  Using that following, the filmmakers allowed anyone who wanted to help with the film.  People could ask for a screening in their home town, help collaborate in the film’s creation, and invest in the movie.  In fact, 10% of the film’s budget was generated by fans, and the donors are listed in the credits.  It was featured, believe it or not, in this year’s Berlin Film Festival in February, and turned out to be rather a hit.  Yes, for a crazy comedy, I recommend it.  Rated 18+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews.  In 2D, and not at Big C.

Distortion / Kon Loke Jit: Thai, Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Nonzee Nimibutr’s seventh movie, a psycho-thriller which explores the inner lives of four characters: a psychologist, a scientist, a businessman, and a student – all haunted by nightmares, repressed memories, and the darkest of pasts.  The characters are involved in a case of grisly serial murders.  Nonzee was director of Nang Nak and Jan Dara, among others. 2D with English subtitles; not playing at Major.

StreetDance 2 (3D): UK/ Germany, Drama/ Music/ Romance – A follow-up to the popular StreetDance 3D of 2010 with mostly new dancers in a European-set dance contest spectacular.  It’s all about dancing, and in that it shines – you shouldn’t pay much attention to the story.  Again with the 2008 winner of Britain’s Got Talent, George Sampson.

After a top street dancer (Falk Hentschel) is humiliated and laughed off stage, beaten by an American dance crew, he sets off to gather the best dancers from around the world to take them on in a rematch.  With landmark locations, a spectacular fusion of dance styles, and an unparalleled vibrancy, this sequel sees our hero fall in love with a beautiful dancer as he discovers the magic, power, and passion of salsa.  Has all the charms a dance movie ought to have, and sensational high-energy routines to some great pop hits.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Pattaya Beach only, in 3D and English.

Dark Shadows: US, Comedy/ Fantasy – I hated the pop music on the soundtrack – way too loud and insistent, and it grated on my nerves.  But other than that, the film was fun, and I really enjoyed myself.  It’s a gothic-horror tale centering on the life of a vampire (played by Johnny Depp) and his run-ins with various monsters, witches, werewolves, and ghosts; a reworking of the TV shows which ran from 1966 to 1971.  Mixed or average reviews, saying director Tim Burton, as usual, is great on atmosphere and comic timing (these are his weirdest moments since Ed Wood), but less so at reining in an overcomplicated plot and dimly lit action scenes.

I found it a bizarre combination of comedy, campy horror, and gothic melodrama, and the lead vampire, blood dripping from his chin, is a great role for the chameleon Johnny Depp.  Relax and enjoy its light, spoofy tone.  If you do, you might find it a ghoulish joy.  2D and English everywhere (Digital at Major).

American Pie: Reunion: US, Comedy/ Raunch – I was really bored with this.  The script was just terrible – profoundly unfunny and uninteresting, and with attempts at treacly sentimentality on friendship and sex that sometimes reach the depths of such atrocities as Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups.  All the American Pie characters we met a little more than a decade ago are returning to East Great Falls for their high-school reunion.  In one long weekend they will discover what has changed, and who hasn’t.  They reminisce about – and get inspired by – the memories of their hormonal teen selves, who once upon a time launched this disgusting comedy legend.  Have they grown up?  What do you think.

Rated R in the US for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use, and teen drinking; 18+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews, saying in general that it will provide sweetly nostalgic comfort food for fans of the franchise, but fails to do anything truly new or interesting — or even very funny — with the characters.  The movie’s message is that the way to face impeding maturity is to embrace your inner teen idiot.  2D and English; not at Big C.

Marvel’s The Avengers 3D: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – Marvel Comics brings its greatest superheroes together in this film, hoping they’ll be enough to smash the evil super-villain Loki (and attract you to the cinema by strength of sheer numbers).  Looks like their strategy is working, as the film had the biggest opening in the world ever, and in Thailand as well.  Already it’s made more money here than any movie this year or indeed the last four years, except for Transformers 3 in 2011 and Avatar in 2009.  That’s even including the Naresuans!

Quite excellent for this type of film, and you may enjoy it quite a bit.  Generally favorable reviews, saying the film lives up to its hype with a script that never forgets its heroes’ humanity.  And that there aren’t many writer-directors around as talented as Joss Whedon.  That indeed it’s the writing that sets this film apart from the crowd.

The film was converted to 3D during post-production, and along with most reviewers I think that it’s quite well done.  Nevertheless, the things that are really good about this film are not related to 3D – things like the dialogue, which is unusually terrific.  Shown in 3D and 2D at Pattaya Beach, 2D at Major, and 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.