Let’s go to the movies – Friday September 28 – October 4, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

Savages: US, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – I found this a most unpleasant experience in almost every way possible, even including the music.  Two pot growers face off against a Mexican drug cartel that kidnapped their shared girlfriend.  The merciless head of the Mexican Baja Cartel, and her enforcer, underestimate the unbreakable bond of the three friends, who wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel, thus starting a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high stakes, savage battle of wills.

Directed by Oliver Stone and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, and Blake Lively.  Most of the secondary acting is well-done – particularly Benicio Del Toro, who gives a performance of such terrifying viciousness that he is unwatchable.  But the three main characters give banal pot-headed performances, most often speaking boring dialogue that grates on the nerves and never gives us any reason to care what happens to them.

It’s a vicious, vacuous, bloody story told like an adolescent out to gleefully shock by publicly splashing around in pools of blood – yes, I mean the revered Oliver Stone.  Nobody needs this trash.  Rated R in the US for strong brutal and grisly violence, some graphic sexuality, nudity, drug use, and language throughout; 18+ here.  Mixed or average reviews.  In 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach only.

Dredd 3D: US/ UK/ India, Action/ Sci-Fi – This film portrays the future America as an irradiated waste land.  On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets.  The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury, and instant executioner.  Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug known as “Slo-Mo” which causes users to experience reality at a fraction of its normal speed.

“Judge Joe Dredd” is amongst the UK’s best known home-grown comic book characters; his comic strip in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD is the magazine’s longest running, having been featured there since its second issue in 1977.  He’s become for England the icon for a certain type of Fascist “law-and-order” philosophy.  Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence, language, drug use, and some sexual content; 18+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews.  Shown in 3D (English) and 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach; 3D (English) at Major; and 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.

But what path have we taken?  The creators of this movie were determined to do their best to make violence beautiful, using slow motion techniques to transform the sight of bullets ripping into flesh and the splattering of blood on people’s faces into images of beauty.

Max Poolman, Special Effects Supervisor: “The blood becomes with the correct lighting on it these beautiful red streaks of ribbons flying through the air and it doesn’t look gory at all—it’s really pretty.”

Vincent E. Toto, Lead Stereographer: “Because everything’s in 3D, you get this extreme depth of the blood coming at you, and you can see it trailing along, and you can see it bouncing off things and creating blood splatters that you would never ever see in regular speed photography.”

These people are sick.  They should be locked away.

I appreciate the different crafts that go into making a movie, and am overjoyed when done really well.  So I loved the art direction and scene design here, which I thought extraordinary.  I truly enjoyed the experiments in slow-motion photography; there were some really exceptionally beautiful sequences.  But not the ripping apart of human bodies; not the splattering of blood.  Those, I regret to say, should be censored.

Bait 3D: Australia, Action/ Horror/ Thriller – It’s your average “trapped in a supermarket with a shark” movie . . . wait, what?  Ah, yes, a group of people get trapped in a supermarket after a tsunami hits the coast of Queensland, Australia, and soon find out that they have more to worry about than being in a flooded grocery store — there’s a 12 foot shark that’s been washed into the basement, and it’s hungry.  Rated R in the US for bloody violence, some grisly images, and language; 18+ here.  Mixed or average reviews (Rotten Tomatoes) – “a shark tale that’s poorly executed yet charmingly absurd.”  Shown in 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach and Major.  Not playing at Big C.

Resident Evil 5: Retribution: Germany/ Canada, Action/ Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Pattaya cinemas are again saturated with this film this week, and it’s the most popular movie in Thailand.  Having now seen it (in 2D) I can tell you that the settings are superb, and the visuals in general at the cutting edge of filmmaking.  Other than that, it’s basically just action, with a minimum of story and character.  If you enjoyed the previous films, especially Resident Evil 4, you should enjoy this, and the next one yet to come, as they are simply more of the same.  Only with ever-better graphics.

Silly and empty-headed it is indeed, and you will shake your head in disbelief at what you’re asked to swallow.  Actually, these are training films, to get you to believe more and more impossible things before breakfast.  By the end of this film you will be able to believe oh, maybe 37 impossible things with no problem.

I don’t know exactly why the violence in this film – like the X-ray visions of bones breaking and hearts exploding – doesn’t bother me the way the violence in Dredd and Savages does, but maybe it’s because here it’s so over the top that it’s distanced somehow, while in the other two films the violence is up close and personal, and terribly convincing.

So it’s purely up to you whether this film is for you, or not.  You’ve been warned.  Rated R in the US for sequences of strong violence throughout.  Generally unfavorable reviews.  Shown in 3D (English) and 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach; 2D (English) at Major; 3D (Thai-dubbed) and 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.

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 as he moves into adulthood from a miserable childhood.  His mother died while giving birth to him, causing his father to hate him deeply.  When he was 13 he was kicked out of his house, accused of a rape he did not commit.  And it goes on and on in the same vein as he fights his demons amidst an environment of obsession with sex.

It certainly has immense quantities of sex – whether that is an advancement for Thai films must be left to your judgment.  Despite all the professed idealism of the director in fighting hypocrisy and prudery, I found that a great deal of the sex was done with the actors looking awkward, as though uncomfortable and ashamed of what they were doing.  Especially the scene of three couples having sex with Jan Dara sketching them, where the staging and action was very awkward and self-conscious.

And the story itself I found very distasteful, with several utterly worthless and unredeemable characters, and others incredibly weak.  And, oh dear, to think this is just the first film in a planned two-part franchise.  Rated 18+ in Thailand and an extraordinarily explicit film for this country.  A 2D film, with English subtitles at Pattaya Beach and Major, Thai only at Big C.