cinemas this week

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Harry Potter will probably saturate the cinemas this week, at least the first few days.  In fact, there may not be anything else playing!  Only time will tell.  What follows is written BH (Before Harry) and as such any film other than Harry is on shaky ground.  But if Fair Game makes it, catch it.

Now playing in Pattaya

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I: UK/ US, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery – The first of the two-part conclusion to the series; Part II due in July of 2011 – both directed by David Yates, who has directed the last two Harry Potter films.  You know you’re going to have to see it, so why fight it.  And you know what you’re in for: a superbly told tale, with some of the finest British character actors.

Originally to be released in 3D, this decision was scrapped just weeks before release, “due to the difficulty of converting the film into the format.”  And therein lies a story.  There’s been a growing controversy about last-minute or even some not-so-last-minute conversions from regular 2D to 3D, generally seen as a means of charging more at the box-office and cashing in on the 3D “wave.”  Some of these conversions have been dreadful, such as last summer’s Clash of the Titans and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland – but even the best fall far short of a film designed from the start for 3D using 3D cameras at every step.  So at the very, very last minute, Warner Bros. pulled the plug on the conversion job, fearing it might result in an ignoble end to a noble series.  By doing so they as much as admitted that the conversion process available for transforming 2D to 3D is simply inadequate at the present time.  However, they are still saying they plan on using the conversion process for the second part next summer, hoping maybe that the process will improve enough in the meantime to be acceptable.  Stay tuned for the future of 3D in the movies!

But as to the movie itself, I’m puzzled by the reviews by those critics who have seen it.  They are quite mixed reviews, some saying it’s everything you could wish for, others saying it’s curiously dark with the look and feel of a film noir thriller from the Forties or a tense wartime spy yarn.  Harry is a fugitive, like an innocent man trapped in the sticky web of a Hitchcock suspense story – “a development slightly more disconcerting than it is welcome.”  Well, we shall soon see for ourselves.

Fair Game: US, Biography/ Drama/ Thriller – Director Doug Liman’s fact-based drama of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson; his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson; and the events of 2003, when her identity as a CIA operative was leaked after her husband wrote an op-ed piece criticizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Dirty games in the government, surprise, surprise!  Generally favorable reviews.

Skyline: US, Sci-Fi/ Thriller – A group of friends are awakened in the dead of night by an eerie light beaming through the window. Like moths to a flame, the light source is drawing people outside where they suddenly vanish into the air.  It’s soon discovered that an otherworldly force is swallowing the entire human population.  With a cast of relative unknowns and shot independently of any major studio, this film is very much the vision of its two creators, the Brothers Strause (Colin and Greg) who have provided visual effects for Avatar, Iron Man 2, and seemingly every other big-budget production released over the past decade or so.  It looks like an exceedingly well-crafted movie with a new level of special-effects work.  Thai-dubbed at Big C, English elsewhere.

Last Exorcism: US/ France, Horror/ Thriller – When he arrives on the rural Louisiana farm of Louis Sweetzer, the Reverend Cotton Marcus expects to perform just another routine “exorcism” on a disturbed religious fanatic.  An earnest fundamentalist, Sweetzer has contacted the charismatic preacher as a last resort, certain his teenage daughter Nell is possessed by a demon who must be exorcized.  It doesn’t fully deliver on the chilly promise of its Blair Witch-style premise, but it offers a surprising number of clever thrills.  Generally favorable reviews.  At Pattaya Beach only.

Brown Sugar 2 / Nam Tan Daeng 2: Thai, Drama/ Erotic – An omnibus film of three erotic stories of love, completing the six-story Brown Sugar film whose first half ran here in August.  Here, in addition to sex, we deal with “greed, wrath, and obsession – presented in the style of Surrealism.”  Showcases the work of three new young filmmakers.  Rated 18+ in Thailand. At Big C only.

Water / Nam: Thai, Comedy/ Horror – The usual Thai slapstick.

Due Date: US, Comedy – A high-strung father-to-be, played by Robert Downey Jr., is forced to hitch a ride with a college slacker (and aspiring actor) on a road trip in order to make it to his child’s birth on time.  Rated R in the US for language, drug use, and sexual content.  Mixed or average reviews.  Not at Big C.

RED: US, Action/ Comedy – A delight!  I had more fun at this one than any movie in some time.  It even made you muse over a few things as you sped along, but not too much and not too deeply.  Mostly it’s just glorious nonsense, with actors that you have come to love to watch, doing their stuff.  Starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, and Mary-Louise Parker – a great cast!  They used to be the CIA’s top agents – but the secrets they knew now make them the Agency’s top targets for assassination.  Rated 18+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews, but I loved it!  Not at Big C.

Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps: US, Drama – Oliver Stone directs this follow-up to the acclaimed 1987 film – 23 years later.  There are some really good turns by a number of people: Michael Douglas, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, Josh Brolin.  Some of their scenes are well done with a lot of intensity in the execution.  But without much point or purpose, for me, and it should have been angrier.  Mixed or average reviews.  Major only, if indeed it survives the Harry onslaught.

Fan Mai: Thai, Action/ Thriller – Really lots of rain and blood.  A girl calls it off with her boyfriend when she finds he’s been seeing someone else – who’s dead.  Spooky.