Let’s go to the movies – Friday July 20 – July 26, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – A film that desecrates history in its pretense to explore the supposedly secret life of one of the greatest presidents of the US.  Visionary filmmakers Tim Burton and the well-known and knowledgeable vampire director Timur Bekmambetov (director of Wanted and the Night Watch/ Day Watch vampire studies) bring a visceral voice to the bloodthirsty lore of the vampire, imagining Lincoln as history’s greatest hunter of the undead.  Starring Benjamin Walker (as Lincoln), Rufus Sewell, and Dominic Cooper.

Mixed or average reviews, saying generally that it has superb visual style, but that the mashup of genres don’t jell in a coherent way, and the result is not satisfying.  Rated R in the US for violence throughout and brief sexuality; 18+ in Thailand.  Shown only in 2D (English) in Pattaya.  Big C also has a Thai-dubbed version.

It stars the extraordinarily talented Benjamin Walker as Lincoln.  His performance in the acclaimed off-Broadway and Broadway productions of the rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson was a stage sensation which seemed to prove the proposition that the American public chooses their presidents the way they choose their rock stars: on sexiness.  Here he brings immense presence to the role of Lincoln.

I find it an extremely irritating, exasperating film, because at heart it is so ridiculous.  “My name is Abraham. Abraham Lincoln.”  “My name is Mary Todd.”  “My name is Stephen A. Douglas!” (Laughter in the audience.)  But instead of poking fun at itself, it takes itself seriously, and shows us some truly exceptional filmmaking, undercut by the ridiculousness of its premise.  It’s marvelous in establishing time and place with historical accuracy and a sense of wonder (New Orleans, Gettysburg).  There are near-epic battlefield scenes.  People are engaged in earth-shattering true-life subjects: the Civil War, fights for and against slavery, the terrible wastefulness of war.  There are beautifully atmospheric sets and authentic costumes, and action pieces of tremendous excitement.  All undercut by the intrusion of vampires into the mix, trivializing all the great themes, making a mockery of burning issues in the history of the United States, and ultimately dishonoring the dead who fought for their beliefs.

The Amazing Spider-Man: US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Thriller – I think it’s good, with some fine work in it, an intelligible story, excellent special effects, the 3D used to extraordinarily good effect.  And I find that Andrew Garfield makes a tremendously appealing hero.  That said, I found myself cool to it overall, and I don’t know why.  I do know that I was irritated by the music, but mark that down to simply my tastes; and I thought the 3D came across as way too dark.  Since I haven’t read of any complaints about the film being too dark, I can only assume that it was the fault of the particular projectionist when I saw it – a common enough occurrence, unfortunately.

This time Peter Parker is played by the quite amazing Andrew Garfield (The Social Network).  Although he’s hilariously too old to be in high school, he pulls it off.  He’s an outcast who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field).  Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today.  Generally highly favorable reviews.  In 3D (English) and 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach and Major; 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting: US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – Apparently 93 percent of all expectant mothers who read a pregnancy guide read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the extraordinarily popular book on which this film is based.  It stars an ensemble cast of Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Dennis Quaid, and Chris Rock.  The film also features many celebrity cameos.  The story follows five Atlanta couples who “suffer the many joys” of the childbirth process.  Mixed or average reviews, saying that it’s a cheerful comedy of warm reassurance, with just enough dark moments to create the illusion it’s really about something – and some of it is even pretty funny.  It’s in 2D (English), showing only at Pattaya Beach.

The Dark Knight Rises: US/ UK, Action/ Adventure/ Crime/ Thriller – A much anticipated film, directed again by Christopher Nolan, with Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, and Morgan Freeman.  Christopher Nolan co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan Nolan and the story with David S. Goyer.  It’s the third installment in Nolan’s Batman film series, and is intended to be the conclusion of the series.  It was shot in 2D, with over an hour scheduled to be shot in IMAX format for added detail.  Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the terrorist leader Bane arrives in Gotham City, pushing it and its police force to their limits, forcing its former hero Batman to resurface after taking the fall for Harvey Dent’s crimes.  2D (English) except Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Magic Mike: US, Comedy/ Drama – Really more of a chick-flick rather than anything else, despite what you might think.  Mike, an experienced male stripper, takes a younger performer called The Kid under his wing and schools him in the arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money.  Relentlessly aimed for a female audience.  Stars Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and Olivia Munn; directed by Steve Soderbergh.  Rated R in the US for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language, and some drug use; 18+ in Thailand.  Generally favorable reviews, saying the film has excellent direction, a smart screenplay, and strong performances.  A 2D film (English), and not showing at Big C.

The Dictator: US, Comedy – This newest film by your favorite crazy actor/ screenwriter Sacha Baron Cohen is scripted rather than the sort-of-documentary performances of his previous Bruno and Borat, and I feel a lot more comfortable as a result.  The making of fools out of people in real interviews which was so much the style of the previous films made me feel very uncomfortable and sort of slimy. This is much more a regular script.  However wild and raunchy the satire might be, it belongs to a truly valid comedic tradition, and is indeed very funny.  Here a dictator goes to any lengths to prevent democracy from taking root in the country he so lovingly oppresses.

Stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, and Ben Kingsley.  Rated R in the US for strong crude and sexual content, brief male nudity, language, and some violent images; 18+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews.  A 2D film, showing only at Pattaya Beach.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – One of filmdom’s most beloved trios – Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth, and Diego the sabre-toothed cat – embark upon a great adventure after a cataclysm sets an entire continent adrift.  Using an iceberg as a ship, they encounter sea creatures and battle pirates as they explore a new world.  Meanwhile, Scrat continues to chase his elusive acorn.

Mixed or average reviews, saying that the visually inventive film has moments of charm and witty slapstick, and the 3D looks terrific.  In 3D (English) at Pattaya Beach; 2D (English) at Major; both Digital 2D (English) and Digital 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.  Very good family fare..

Snow White and the Huntsman: US, Action/ Comedy/ Sci-Fi – A fantastically beautiful film with superb art direction and a fully realized story.  It’s the old tale intact, with every moment, every twist and turn, given full due.  Visually and aurally it is without peer.  One of the most exciting and satisfying films I’ve seen in some time.  Mixed or average reviews, but I recommend it highly.  Now in regular 2D only, in English, only at Major (as of last Wednesday).

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – The Madagascar team of regulars – Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, and Melman the Giraffe – are still fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple.  Mixed or average reviews, which call it bright and breezy with fast pacing, bright colors, dazzling circus acts, a vigorous villain, and some new characters.  Now in 2D (English) and only at Pattaya Beach – as of Wednesday.

Wong Jorn Pid / Heaven and Hell: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – An omnibus horror movie comprising three supernatural stories, all involving footage “found” in three security cameras: one in a broken-down elevator, one in a convenience store, and one in a creepy old house.  Rated 18+.  Thai-only at Pattaya Beach and Major; English subtitles at Big C.