Let’s go to the movies – Friday December 28 – January 3, 2013


Now playing in Pattaya

Zero Dark Thirty: (Scheduled) US, Action/ Drama/ History/ Thriller  – A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.  

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Oscar-winning creator of The Hurt Locker.  Nominated for four Golden Globe awards.  Rated R in the US for strong violence, including brutal, disturbing images, and for language.  Reviews: Universal acclaim, saying it’s gripping, suspenseful, and brilliantly crafted, and dramatizes the hunt for Osama bin Laden with intelligence and an eye for detail.  Highly recommended, and if it does really show up in Pattaya, by all mean see it.

Silver Linings Playbook: (Scheduled) US, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – I really doubt that this will actually show, but Major Cineplex has it on the schedule.  If it does, see it.  Though you’re never heard of it, it’s garnered an enthusiastic following with hopes of an Oscar.  So far it’s in the running for four Golden Globes.

After a stint in a mental institution, a former teacher moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.  Things get more challenging when he meets a mysterious girl with problems of her own.  Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro.  Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content/nudity.  Reviews: Universal acclaim, saying it walks a tricky thematic tightrope, but David O. Russell’s sensitive direction and some sharp work from a talented cast gives it true balance. “For all its high-flying zaniness the movie has the sting of life, and its humor feels dredged up from the same dark, boggy place from which Samuel Beckett extracted his comedy.”

Wreck-It Ralph 3D: (Scheduled) US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.  Generally favorable reviews, saying it’s a clever, colorful adventure built on familiar themes and joyful nostalgia, and equally entertaining for both kids and parents old enough to catch the references.  “A superbly rendered, supremely creative effort that lovingly pays tribute to 1980s arcade games.”

Jack Reacher: (Scheduled) US, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – A homicide investigator digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper who shot five random victims.  Mixed or average reviews, saying it’s an above-average crime thriller with a smoothly charismatic performance from Tom Cruise.  Too violent and too much about guns for me at this time.

Life of Pi: US, Adventure/ Drama – I’d be very happy if this won the Oscar for best picture of the year.  I think it’s that good as popular entertainment, and as an artistic achievement.  I saw it in 2D and I would imagine it would be even more thrilling in 3D.  This is simply a superb film from start to finish in all aspects.  Do see it!  Among other things it’s a deeply religious story about an Indian youth named Pi who is raised a Hindu, but who as a fourteen-year-old is introduced to Christianity and Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love god.”  The core of the story has Pi, now a beautiful young man, shipwrecked at sea for 227 days in the company of a fully-grown Bengal tiger.

Directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain).  I was immensely impressed by the way the strange but fascinating book was brought so faithfully to life, including such impossible sequences as the floating island of meerkats.  Generally favorable reviews, saying it’s an astonishing technical achievement that’s also emotionally rewarding.  Shown in 3D (English) at Pattaya Beach, 2D (English) at Major, and 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.  Don’t miss this.

Cloud Atlas: Germany/ US/ Hong Kong/ Singapore, Drama/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi – Certainly you will not be bored by this film, as there are dazzling performances, directed with tremendous energy and imagination.  But schedule yourself to see it twice, as I found it perhaps the most complicated and ambitious film of recent years.  Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, all playing a variety of roles.  Rated R in the US for violence, language, sexuality/nudity, and some drug use; 18+ here.

Mixed or average reviews, saying its sprawling, ambitious blend of thought-provoking narrative and eye-catching visuals will prove too unwieldy for some, but the sheer size and scope are all but impossible to ignore.  I agree, and I think you will want to see this daring and visionary film.  It’s in English, playing at Pattaya Beach and Major.  Prepare to either work hard, or relax and enjoy.  But do see it.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey / The Hobbit: Part 1: US/ New Zealand, Adventure/ Fantasy – Grand entertainment!  I think you’ll find this thoroughly enjoyable if you have liked any of the previous Middle Earth fantasies.  The filmmaking here is extraordinary, as is the storytelling.  Endlessly inventive and spectacular.  I saw it in 3D and urge you to do the same.  The film acts as a prelude to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.  It’s meticulously, even gorgeously, photographed, showing off the rich New Zealand countryside, and with a number of innovations to produce the last word in digital 3D filmmaking.

Generally favorable reviews, saying it’s visually resplendent and features strong performances from Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, but the film’s deliberate pace robs the material of some of its majesty.  Don’t agree with that last bit.  At all three locations it’s being shown in both 3D (English) and regular 2D (English, except Thai-dubbed at Big C).  Really long: 170 minutes.  Nearly three hours.  But I didn’t mind or notice the length.  I completely enjoyed it.

Chinese Zodiac: Hong Kong/ China, Action/ Adventure – Starring and directed by Jackie Chan, this is a sequel to “Amour of God” and “Amour of God II: Operation Condor.”  By all reports, this is his last film, and he intends to go out in style.  Here Chan reprises his role as adventurer and treasure hunter Asian Hawk, who is a Chinese hero not unlike Indiana Jones.  This time, he has to bring back the bronze head statues of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, which were sacked by the French and British armies from the imperial Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 during the Second Opium War.  The film is in English and Spanish but shown here only in a Thai-dubbed version at all three locations.

Countdown: Thai, Thriller – Looks dreadfully violent.  Three Thai teenagers, two boys and one girl, find themselves sharing a hotel room in New York City during the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Jack is a rich kid from Thailand who lies to his parents that he’s in NYC to study, but in reality he is actually spending their money on a daily basis just to have fun.  Pam is a materialistic girl who would do anything to impress others.  Finally there is Bee, Jack’s girlfriend, who has yet to reveal to anyone why she came to NYC in the first place.  The three friends want to have a New Year’s Eve party to remember, so Jack calls a drug dealer by the name of Jesus, no less, to drop off some stuff to their apartment so they can celebrate the end of the year in style.  They don’t know Jesus that well and don’t know his background.  Not very smart, and Jesus, turns out to have a vicious and sadistic streak in him, and it turns out that they are counting down without knowing for sure that they’ll ever see another dawn.  The film is partially in English.  Rated 18+ in Thailand.  In 2D (English subtitles); not playing at Major.

Together / Wan Tee Rak: Thai, Drama – The story centers on a Thai couple who have been together for almost ten years.  Their long love for each other is tested when some conflicts and memories from their past threaten their peaceful marriage, and when the wife’s father who suffers from Alzheimer’s is brought into the home.  The Bangkok Post calls it “a surprisingly tender and sure-footed piece of filmmaking.”  In 2D (English subtitles); not playing at Major.

The Impossible: Spain, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – “One of the most emotionally realistic disaster movies in recent memory — and certainly one of the most frightening in its epic re-creation of the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.”  A husband and wife and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand in 2004, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise.  But on the morning of December 26th, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the center of the earth.  The wife freezes in fear as a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward her.  Thus starts the most harrowing disaster movie in many a moon, combining a tremendous feat of physical filmmaking with an emotional true story of family survival.

Stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor; directed by the Spanish Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage).  Generally favorable reviews, saying it is wrenchingly acted, deftly manipulated, and terrifyingly well made.  “Part of the appeal of this affecting and powerful drama is that it puts the viewer right in the moment at every stage, using authentic locations and tsunami survivors to hammer home the reality of this tragedy.”  A 2D film (English); not playing at Big C. (As of Wednesday.)