Let’s go to the movies – Friday March 16 – March 22, 2012

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Now playing in Pattaya

Hugo: US, Adventure/ Drama/ Family – I hope it’s still on so you can see it, if you haven’t already.  It’s a brilliant and magical film, which was nominated for eleven Oscars and won five.  I think it’s the best use of 3D I’ve seen, which is fitting for a film which celebrates film innovation and the magic of the whole process.  

It’s many things: a story of early filmmaking in France, a boy’s adventure story, a glowing homage to the wonder of ticking things and gears and automatons.  Directed by Martin Scorsese, who won the Golden Globes directing award this year for the film, and with some excellent performances.  Whatever qualms one might have about the film, the stupendous achievements in so many area – and the exquisite attention to detail – makes it really a film not under any circumstances to be missed.  Reviews: Universal acclaim.  In Digital 3D, and at Pattaya Beach only. (Hopefully.)  See it!

The Grey: US, Action/ Adventure/ Drama/ Thriller – More and more I’m thinking of this as a “must-see” film.  It’s certainly come as a surprise – out of nowhere, a film that’s spiritual, frightening, heartfelt, and thrilling.  It’s an exciting tale of survival, populated with fleshed-out characters, and within a surprising philosophical framework.  I was truly frightened at several points, with my heart (what’s left of it, after a bypass) pounding.  Full of astonishing sequences, spectacular cinematography, excellent performances, and heartfelt ruminations on mortality, faith, masculinity, hope, family, and existence.  It also has really cool wolves.  Stars Liam Neeson. Rated R in the US for violence/ disturbing content, including bloody images, and for pervasive language; 13+ in Thailand.  Generally favorable reviews, some of which have been extraordinary in their philosophical reflections.  In English; not showing at Big C. (Warning: It’s essential that you sit all the way through the closing credits.  There’s one more scene – extremely short – at the very end.)  Highly recommended.

Mirror Mirror: (Scheduled.) US, Adventure/ Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy – A retelling of the Snow White tale with some surprising twists.  Julia Roberts plays the Evil Queen, Lily Collins plays Snow White, Armie Hammer is the Prince, and the outstanding comic Nathan Lane plays a long-suffering servant of the Evil Queen.  With the Indian director Tarsem Singh, who did “The Immortals” last year.  No reviews yet.

Rak Aow Yu: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – Director Poj Arnon is certainly one for seizing opportunities for films direct from the headlines.  Last year it was the aborted fetuses scandal, this time it’s the Bangkok flooding.  The title comes from the oft-repeated government phrase during the flooding “Aow Yu” meaning “We can handle it.”  I’m told the title also has a sexual meaning, but surely not!  Poj rushed his actors and his film crew out into the raging Bangkok waters hurriedly while the waters were still high.  Actually, as we all know, he had plenty of time.  Stars the scandal-plagued actor Film (Rattapoom Tokongsub) who was dragged through the mud of an unauthorized paternity or something last year, and went very quickly from star to pariah.  However, not to worry, it’s all for laughs.  English subtitles except Thai-only at Big C.

John Carter: US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi – I saw this in 3D and was quite taken with it – and the 3D was quite excellent.  As an old-fashioned pulp-magazine adventure tale, it can’t be beat.  No science in this Sci-Fi film, just fantasy, and very well done indeed.  You need to let the kid inside you see this; park your maturity at the door.  It’s a richly imagined and often spectacular realization of a classic pulp novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians.  Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.  Directed by Pixar director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL•E) in his first live-action film, and it’s a solid achievement in the genre.  In both 2D and 3D at Pattaya Beach (English); 2D at Major (English); 2D at Big C (Thai-dubbed).

Chronicle: UK/ US, Action/ Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading to their developing uncanny powers beyond their understanding.  As they learn to control their abilities and use them to their advantage, their lives start to spin out of control, and their darker sides begin to take over.  Rated R in the US for some violence; 13+ in Thailand.  Generally favorable reviews, saying that though it arrives during a glut of found-footage films, this film transcends its gimmicks with a smart script, fast-paced direction, and engaging performances from its young, talented cast.  In 2D and English everywhere, but shown Digitally at Major (not 3D) – at least as of last Wednesday.

Mae Nak 3D: Thai, Horror – Mae Nak Phrakhanong is one of Thailand’s most enduring figures of horror and despair, and the ghost legend has been told many times in many forms.  Here, she gets the 3D treatment.  My Thai film guru Wise Kwai says: “Dull.”  At Big C only, in 3D, Thai-only.

Rak Sud Teen: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – A handsome playboy in a bike rider gang runs a jeans stall at the night market under Put Bridge.  He’s a womanizer (a new role for star Mario Maurer) and swears not to fall in love.  But destiny has other plans and has him meet a beautiful girl, and despite his bravado, it’s love at first sight.  Mario Maurer is probably Thailand’s Number One heartthrob.  Here he’s pretty rough for a change, and not very polite.  English subtitles at Big C, Thai-only at Pattaya Beach.

Haywire: US/ Ireland, Action/ Thriller – A beautiful freelance covert operative is hired out to perform jobs which governments can’t authorize and heads of state would rather not know about.  When an operation in Dublin goes awry and she finds herself victim of a double cross, she needs all of her skills, tricks, and abilities to escape an international manhunt, make it back to the United States, protect her family, and exact revenge on those who betrayed her.  Newcomer Gina Carano in the starring role is one tough cookie, and she has tremendous presence as an intriguing mix of muscular power and eye-catching femininity.  Also starring Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender, but all the males in the film are merely fodder for her kicks.  Directed by Steven Soderbergh.  Rated R in the US for some violence; 18+ in Thailand.  Generally favorable reviews.  Not at Big C.

Act of Valor: US, Action/ Adventure/ Thriller – When a mission to recover a kidnapped CIA operative unexpectedly results in the discovery of an imminent, terrifying global threat, an elite team of highly trained Navy SEALs must immediately embark on a heart-stopping secret operation.  It’s an impressive film about professional warriors in the age of global terrorism.  Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh collaborated with the US Navy and actual Navy SEALs to give the film an accurate sense of battle tactics and environment.  Though the SEALs’ lack something in the way of acting skills, this is more than made up for by honest performances from men who actually do this stuff for a living.  Rated R in the US for strong violence, including some torture, and for language; 18+ in Thailand.  Mixed or average reviews.  In English except Thai-dubbed at Big C.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: US, Action/ Fantasy/ Thriller – Don’t underestimate the appeal of Nicolas Cage!  He keeps riding along week after week in Thai cinemas as the Ghost Rider in yet another impossible outing, and racking up huge amounts of money and presumably satisfied customers.  This time the Ghost Rider is in Eastern Europe and must stop the devil, who is trying to take human form.  Generally unfavorable reviews, saying it has a weak script and uneven CG work, with Cage giving another loony performance that’s no longer much fun – except for your average moviegoer, who thinks he’s great.  No longer in 3D, it’s in English at Pattaya Beach and Major, and Thai-dubbed at Big C.