Let’s go to the movies – Friday September 14 – September 20, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

Chapter of Jan Dara: Thai, Drama/ Erotic – Based on the most controversial novel in all of Thai literature (written in 1966), Jan Dara tells the story of a young man who moves into adulthood with terrible burdens thrown upon him in his youth.  His mother died while giving birth to him, causing his father to resent him deeply.  By the time he was 13, he was kicked out of his house, accused of a rape he did not commit.  Cut to years later, and Jan Dara returns home bent on seeking revenge against his father.  But although he has always hated his father’s riotous ways, hateful demeanor, and his treatment of women – he has memories of his father in compromising positions with his nanny – it seems he might be destined to repeat the past in order to conquer it.

The film unfolds as he fights his demons amidst an environment of obsession, and comes to grips with three women in his life, each exerting control over him in their own unique ways.  Just the first film in a planned two-part franchise.  Rated 18+ in Thailand. A 2D film, with English subtitles at Pattaya Beach and Major, Thai only at Big C.

The director is furious that people accuse him of base impulses in filming this highly erotic move.  “I am almost 60!  Do you really think someone of my age wants to do an erotic movie for pleasure?” asks an exasperated Mom Noi.

Well . . . yes!

Ted: US, Comedy/ Fantasy – Currently the most popular film in Thailand, this is truly a lot of fun, and I surprised myself by enjoying it immensely.  It’s co-written, produced, and directed by Seth MacFarlane, who stars in it along with Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis.  The story: John Bennett was a lonely child, who dearly wished for his new Christmas gift, a large teddy bear he names Teddy, to come to life to be his friend.  The wish succeeds with a falling star and Ted became a fully mobile sentient being.  John’s parents got over the shock, word of the miracle spread, and Ted was briefly a celebrity.  Now an adult, John has a problem with the bear: he refuses to leave his side.

Very funny, and Mark Wahlberg, who plays this nonsense straight and with utter conviction, is a hoot!  Rated R in the US for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use.  Generally favorable reviews.  In 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach and Major; not playing at Big C.  Warning: It’s utter raunch, so don’t bring the kiddies, however much they might want to see a talking teddy bear.

Hope Springs: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play a devoted couple, but whose decades of marriage have left the wife wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband.  When she hears of a renowned couple’s specialist in the small town of Great Hope Springs, she attempts to persuade her skeptical husband, a steadfast man of routine, to get on a plane for a week of marriage therapy.  Just convincing her stubborn man to go on the retreat is hard enough – the real challenge for both of them comes as they shed their bedroom hang-ups and try to re-ignite the spark that caused them to fall for each other in the first place.

Generally favorable reviews, saying that the film is led by a pair of mesmerizing performances from Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, and offers some grown-up laughs — and a thoughtful look at mature relationships.  In 2D (English), and only at Pattaya Beach.

Resident Evil 5: Retribution: (Scheduled) Germany/ Canada, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – The Umbrella Corporation’s deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh-eating Undead.  The human race’s last and only hope, Alice, played again of course by Milla Jovovich, awakens in the heart of Umbrella’s most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex.  Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence throughout.  Filmed in 3D, Imax, and 3D-Imax.

The Possession: US, Horror/ Thriller – Eerily enjoyable pulp – stylish and truly spooky.  A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit.  The girl’s father eventually has to team up with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child.  The catch here is that the possession and the exorcism are not in the usual Christian framework, but a Jewish, and the “devil” is a “dybbuk.”

Mixed or average reviews, saying that it’s full of ghost-movie clichés, but is inspired by some degree of religious scholarship, and manages to create believable characters in a real world.  In 2D (English), except Thai-dubbed at Big C.

The Bourne Legacy: US, Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – The plot was generally incomprehensible to me, but there were a couple of outstanding scenes and chases.  This is a continuation of the Bourne stories focusing this time on Jeremy Renner as an agent in yet another CIA black ops program that the dirty powers-that-be decide to terminate, killing all involved.  It’s directed by Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter for the previous films.  I found Renner and his co-star Rachel Weisz to have a nice chemistry between them.

Generally favorable reviews, saying that it isn’t quite as compelling as the earlier trilogy, but nevertheless proves the franchise has stories left to tell — and benefits from Jeremy Renner’s magnetic work in the starring role.  In 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach and Major (as of Wednesday).

Shambhala: Thai, Drama – I am bitterly disappointed by this film.  Starring two Thai actors of considerable note – Lao-Australian superstar Ananda Everingham, and Thai-French heart-throb Sunny Suwanmetanon – this had all the potential of being a significant Thai film, but something went terribly wrong in the three years the film took to complete, and what began as a strong religious story turned into a sappy romance with much mockery of all religion in general and disrespect of Tibetan customs in particular.  Sure Ananda reforms a bit at the end, but the greater part of the movie shows him disrespectful of religion, and that’s what Ananda’s fans will take away and want to ape, because it looks so cool when Ananda does it.  All involved have much to atone for.  A 2D film, with English subtitles; now at Big C only.

Virgin Am I: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – I quote from the official studio synopsis: “A sex comedy about a group of teenagers who want to lose their virginity for the first time.”  Seems to me this says a lot about the confused Thai world-view … Apparently, one of the threads has to do with a boy’s private “right-hand session” going viral on YouTube; another about how starring in an erotic film can cause your friends to drift away.  In Thai only at Pattaya Beach, English subtitles at Big C, not playing at Major.  Can’t be too sexy – it’s only rated 15+.

The Expendables 2: US, Action/ Thriller – I enjoyed most of this, and if you like this sort of imaginative mayhem, you will too.  Stars Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, and Sylvester Stallone; directed by Simon West.  Mixed or average reviews, saying in general that it’s a fun roundup of action stars who simultaneously celebrate and send up their former glories.  I say it’s redundant, bombastic, and cheekily self-aware.  Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence throughout.  In 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach and Major, 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.