Let’s go to the movies – Friday September 30 – October 6, 2011

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Now playing in Pattaya

Cars 2 3D: (Scheduled) US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – Star race car Lightning McQueen and his pal Mater head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix race.  But the road to the championship becomes rocky as Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.  As visually appealing as any other Pixar production, but the story for most is not that great.  Mixed or average reviews.

Contagion: (Scheduled) US, Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – A scary story, tightly plotted and tensely told.  Soon after her return from a business trip to Hong Kong, a woman dies from what is flu or some other type of infection.  Her young son dies a few days later.  Her husband however seems immune.  Thus begins the spread of a deadly infection.  For doctors and administrators at the U.S. Center for Disease Control, several days pass before anyone realizes the extent or gravity of this new infection.  They must first identify the type of virus in question and then find a means of combating it, a process that will likely take several months.  As the contagion spreads to millions of people worldwide, societal order begins to break down as people panic.  Stars Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Matt Damon. Generally favorable reviews.

The Three Musketeers 3D: (Scheduled) Germany/ France/ UK/ US, Action/ Adventure/ Romance – The hot-headed young D’Artagnan along with three former legendary but now down-on-their-luck Musketeers must unite and defeat a beautiful double agent and her villainous employer from seizing the French throne and engulfing Europe in war.  An action-filled re-imagining of the Alexandre Dumas classic.  Christoph Waltz plays the villainous Cardinal Richelieu.  No reviews: not to be released in the real world until October 13.

The Outrage / U Mong Pa Meung: Thai, Crime/ Mystery – Adapted from the famed Japanese film Rashomon, this beautiful and brooding Thai version takes place in a wood during Thai’s Lanna period.  There’s a mysterious murder, and the event is told at a hastily convened court by the three participants, the victim speaking through a medium.  Later an eye-witness discusses the event with a monk who was present at the trial, and a grave-tender.  All the stories that are told are different, but each swears their version is the truth.  Beautifully acted by Ananda Everingham, Chermarn Boonyasak, Mario Maurer, and Mum Jokmok, directed by ML Bhandevanop Devakul and developed by him from his play of 20 years ago.  Highly effective; I’ve seen it twice now, and I recommend it highly.  With English subtitles at all locations (at least as of Wednesday).

Mr. Popper’s Penguins: US, Comedy/ Family – I’ve seen this, and though for a Jim Carrey film it’s bland, too inoffensive, and predictable, there is fun in it – particularly when the penguins are center stage.  Carrey tries to hide the whole flock (if that’s the word) in his New York City apartment.  Nice turn by Angela Lansbury.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Pattaya Beach only.

Johnny English Reborn / Johnny English 2: US/ France/ UK, Comedy – Rowan Atkinson returns to the role of the most unlikely intelligence officer in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where he must stop a group of international assassins before they eliminate a world leader and cause global chaos.  He is in truth a very funny man, and you may be surprised at how much you’re laughing.  Thai-dubbed at Big C; English elsewhere.

Friends with Benefits: (Still scheduled) US, Comedy/ Romance – While trying to avoid the clichés of Hollywood romantic comedies, Dylan (Justin Timberlake, really quite good) and Jamie (Mila Kunis, also good) soon discover that adding the act of sex to their friendship really does lead to complications.  The chemistry between the two leads is excellent, and I found it all quite enjoyable.  If you really need to see a Rom-Com, you could do much worse than this.  Rated R in the US for some violent content and brief sexuality; 18+ in Thailand.  Generally favorable reviews.

Abduction: US, Action/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller – Hunk of all hunks, Taylor Lautner (the wolf from the Twilight movies) got his breakthrough chance with this movie, and apparently blew it!  I haven’t seen such bad reviews in a long time, like: “One of the worst films of 2011.  The script and editing is so horrific that it made Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina, two great actors, look bad.  Stay far away!”  Too bad, and I guess I’ll stay away.  It’s a story of a young man who has the uneasy feeling that he’s living someone else’s life.  When he stumbles upon an image of himself as a little boy on a missing persons website, all of his fears come true: he realizes his parents are not his own and his life is a lie, carefully fabricated to hide something mysterious and dangerous.  Generally unfavorable reviews (and at the low end of that category).  Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Apollo 18: US, Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Decades-old found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission, where two American astronauts were sent on a secret expedition, reveals the reason the US has never returned to the moon.  Basically The Blair Witch in outer space, with an ultra-low budget.  Spanish director Gonzalo López-Gallego makes his English-language feature debut.  Generally unfavorable reviews – even lower than Abduction.  Not at Big C.

Baan Phee Pob: Reformation: Thai, Comedy/ Horror – The evil spirit of Phee Pob (or Phop) is revived again!  This is a long-running ghost-comedy series of some twenty installments so far, and is notable for the scenes of villagers running around and then hiding in large water jars.  You must have seen some of this.  Some in the audience need to see nothing more than a huge water jar and a hapless villager to start in with uncontrollable laughter.  Stars veteran actress Natthanee Sitthisaman as the gut-munching female ghost who disembowels her victims.  Must not be too ghoulish, though, as it’s rated G. At Big C only, with English subtitles.

Colombiana: US/ France, Action/ Adventure/ Drama – I liked this as an action flick and found it intriguing and exciting.  A young woman, after witnessing her parents’ murder as a child in Bogota, grows up to be a stone-cold assassin.  Stars Zoe Saldana (from Avatar) and she is a riveting presence onscreen indeed.  It’s chock-full of action, sex, and violence – so much so that’s it’s rated 18+ in Thailand (but only PG-13 in the US).  Mixed or average reviews.  Pattaya Beach and Major only, as of Wednesday.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: US/ Australia/ Mexico, Horror/ Thriller — Produced and co-written by Guillermo del Toro.  The original of this was a television thriller from 1973 which so bewitched the then 9-year-old del Toro that he then and there determined on a life of making fantasy horror films – which he has done.  A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend in Rhode Island discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.  They say it starts out being quite scary indeed.  With Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes.  Rated R in the US for violence and terror; 15+ here.  Mixed or average reviews.  Major only.

Shark Night 3D: US, Horror/ Thriller – A weekend at a lake house in the Louisiana Gulf turns into a nightmare for seven vacationers as they are subjected to fresh-water shark attacks.  Generally unfavorable reviews.  Shown in 3D at Pattaya Beach and Major; 2D and Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Bad Teacher: US, Comedy – Cameron Diaz plays a foulmouthed, ruthless, altogether inappropriate teacher who drinks, gets high, and can’t wait to marry her meal ticket and quit teaching.  It’s a repulsive character, and I felt uncomfortable.  With Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake (who is getting to be a very pleasant person to share a movie with).  Rated R in the US for sexual content, nudity, language, and some drug use; 18+ here.  Mixed or average reviews.  Pattaya Beach only.

Zookeeper: US, Comedy/ Family/ Romance – I’ve seen this, and some of the animal antics made me laugh, and I dare say you too will find them amusing to watch.  But I think your overall appreciation of the film will depend purely on how interesting you find the two human leads, Kevin James and Rosario Dawson, and their rocky road to romance.  I’m not enamored of either.  Generally unfavorable reviews.  Playing as of Wednesday at Pattaya Beach only.

Cowboys & Aliens: US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Whatever were they thinking?  This is a film in which characters with ugly personalities do unpleasant things to each other – the characters being humans, semi-humans, and aliens.  I can’t think of one reason why anyone should want to see this.  Very mixed styles, very mixed messages, all of it uncomfortable – despite the high-priced help of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.  Mixed or average reviews.  As of Wednesday it was still playing at Major.

Luer Lae: Thai, Comedy/ Musical – Veteran comic Note Chernyim collaborated with fellow comedian Yong Chernyim in this comedy aimed at raising awareness of folk music among a new generation, urging them to preserve it for future generations.  The story is of a three-man band, all of whom are crazy about ska music and hope to become famous.  After troubles that force them to disband, the three wander into a village where folk music is still being preserved.  Not at Major.