Let’s go to the movies – Friday July 27 – August 2, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

The Dark Knight Rises: US/ UK, Action/ Adventure/ Crime/ Thriller – To gauge whether this film is for you is easy: If you at all enjoyed the first two in this series, you will enjoy this one too.  All in all, it’s a satisfying conclusion to the series, with much to commend it.

But … in a way it’s altogether fitting that the shootings in Colorado took place at a midnight showing of this film, for it is without doubt one of the darkest mainstream films ever made, with an unrelieved depiction of the worst of human behavior, with motives of simple power and sadism.  The dark is so unrelieved that it really makes me question whether I can consider it entertainment – for me.  At the moment, I think it is not.

It is well made, there are fine performances, the movie craft is superb.  It’s 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 intended to be the conclusion of the series.  The movie was shot in 2D on film, which the director prefers for its photographic qualities which he finds superior in so many ways to digital, with about half of it shot in IMAX format for added detail, but again using film not digital capture.  Apparently, from all reports, the IMAX half is so impressive to watch that it’s worth traveling to Bangkok to see it at the one IMAX theatre showing it on film.

It’s 2 hrs 45 mins long, not a drawback as far as I’m concerned.  Generally favorable reviews.  The director strongly insists that the movie be shown using film, not digital, and it does appear to be shown this way in Pattaya.  It’s presented in English, with an additional Thai-dubbed version at Big C.  This, assuming of course that the screenings haven’t been curtailed after the horrible events at the midnight showing in Colorado.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – A film that I think 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) combine forces to wallow in the bloodthirsty lore of the vampire, imagining Lincoln as history’s greatest hunter of the undead.  Starring the extraordinarily talented 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.  Thai-dubbed at Big C.

I find it an extremely irritating, exasperating film, because at heart it is so ridiculous.  But 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 destroyed 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.

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 Major; 2D (English) at Pattaya Beach; and 2D (Thai-dubbed) at Big C.

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.

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, 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 (as of last 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+.  English subtitles; not playing at Major.