Let’s go to the movies – Friday September 7 – September 13, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

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.  The two actors play brothers on a pilgrimage to Tibet in search of Shambhala, a fabled kingdom that most consider to be located in Tibet, and is thought of as a sort of heaven on Earth in Tibetan and Indian Buddhist traditions.

Written and directed by Panchapong Kongkanoi, he may have started out with good intentions, 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 is 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 at all locations.

Ted: US, Comedy/ Fantasy – 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: in 1985, in the city of Swampscott, Massachusetts, 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, saying that even though Ted’s “romance versus bromance” plot is familiar, the film is held aloft by the high-concept central premise and a very funny (albeit inconsistent) script.  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.

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 the possession and the exorcism are not in the usual Christian framework, but a Jewish, and the “devil” is a “dybbuk.”  Supposedly based on a true story.

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 only (as of Wednesday).

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 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.  The Expendables are reunited for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge gets them deep in enemy territory and up against unexpected threats.  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 there’s plenty to enjoy on a non-cerebral level: 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.  Currently the most popular film in Thailand.  Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence throughout.  In 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach and Major, 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.

Echo Planet: Thai, Animation/ Family – A rather brilliant Thai animated feature by the studio that gave us the hit film Khan Kluay six years ago.  It’s about three youngsters determined to save the world from global warming, and how traditional folk wisdom can do more to tackle world-wide problems than high-tech devices.  I like this film very much and wish I could induce more people to see it.  It has much to offer.  The animation is quite superb, and the Thai-ness of the film is delightful.  I found it a quite entertaining tale with an environmental message, and a historic triumph for Thai animation.  Now it’s at Big C only (in 2D), and in a Thai-dubbed version – as of Wednesday.

Brave: US, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – I found this a funny and exciting fantasy-adventure, with a surprisingly strong female protagonist.  Set in Scotland in a rugged and mythical time, it’s about an impetuous daughter of royalty.  The film is produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney, and is Pixar’s first fairy tale, and I certainly consider it somewhat darker and more mature in tone than its previous films.

Generally favorable reviews, saying it offers young audiences a rousing fairy tale with surprising depth.  In 3D (English) at Pattaya Beach, as of Wednesday.

Yes or No 2: Thai, Drama/ Romance – The sequel to Yes or No, the romance between Pie and Kim, two girls who fall in love with each other.  Now, Pie and Kim have been in a relationship for three years, but an internship during their fourth year forces them to stay in different places for a while.  However, their long distance love only strengthens their devotion.  2D with English subtitles; no longer at Major.

Total Recall:  US/ Canada, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – This is a remake of the 1990 science fiction film which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.  This one stars Colin Farrell, with Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel.  It’s set in 2084, and the plot involves a factory worker who suffers from violent nightmares, and takes advantage of the services of a corporation that provides its clients with implanted artificial memories of the lives they would like to have.

Mixed or average reviews, saying that it has some impressive action sequences but lacks the intricate plotting, wry humor, and fleshed out characters that made the original a sci-fi classic.  In 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach and Major; not at Big C.

The Dinosaur Project: UK, Adventure – Explorers go in search of a lost world with high-tech video cameras.  Their target: a Loch Ness monster-like creature lurking in the depths of the Congo.  This is an eccentrically British attempt to paste together two very different genres: stupendous dinosaur epic, like Jurassic Park, and found-footage fake documentary, like The Blair Witch Project.

Mixed or average reviews.  A 2D film, with English subtitles except Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Sat2Mon / Kuen Won Sao: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – A love-stricken young man is seeking help to date his dream girl from the girl’s best friend.  It’s said to have some cute and endearing moments along the way to a predictable ending.  With English subtitles at all locations.