Friday, July 15, 2005


(Thanks to Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere for nudging me into the Bangkok movie scene. Check his blog for excellent movie talk and, of course, nutty politics.)

I am not a movie goer. Why? I have a low threshold of boredom. My favorite way of watching a movie is with a book on my lap to read during dull stretches of the movie. I have trouble reading in a darkened theatre. Ergo, I seldom go to movies, preferring to watch at home with the aforementioned book on my lap. The last film I saw in a theatre was Vanilla Sky because my date insisted. Nough said?

I was recently asked about movies here in Bangkok. All I knew was that films open here about the same time as in the States. I said that they were all dubbed in Thai, not knowing any better. But my interest was tweaked so I decided to try the Bangkok movie scene.

I told The Jungle Princess in the morning we would go to see War of the Worlds that afternoon. I found the movie ad in her Thai language paper. It was playing in about 20 theatres in English and 8 theatres dubbed in Thai. My computer told me there was a 2PM show at most cinemas. As in most of our travels throughout Bangkok, I left the rest to her.

We left the house at 1:25 and then the confusion began. When I move about alone I carefully study maps and have no problem getting to where I’m going. When Dow (The Jungle Princess) is along, I pay no attention to where she leads and just string along. But this time something was wrong. We went on the subway to downtown then switched to the Skytrain. We went four stations east, which was away from the town center. Then we took a taxi. There was confusion and we switched to another taxi. This one left us a block from the theatre and we finally arrived, an hour after we started.

It was pretty strange. We live in the northeast part of town but by no means in the boondocks. I wondered why the safari. There had to be something closer.

Then she solved the mystery.

Guess what.

She had never been to a movie before.

In her life!

Picture it. This was a 37 year old lady who was now going to her first movie.

Never in America.

That was the reason for the confusion. She didn’t know where the theatres were.

It was a ten unit multiplex. WOTW was only playing in one and it wasn’t starting for another 15 minutes.

The tickets cost 150 baht ($3.50) each. We sat in a section in the back in which the arm rests can be raised up so people can sit closer. The theatre sat about 300 but the audience was only about 30. The theatre was state of the art but, as in most American cinemas, the sound was too loud. The air conditioning made it too cold, coming in from the heat outside. Dow went to get her munchies and came back with a beer for me. She read my mind again. Not too hard when beer is concerned. Before the main feature, everyone stood during the playing of the Thai national anthem. That is a practice throughout the country.

The movie began. This is my review:

War of the Worlds has one of the silliest plots ever, and I mean ever, put into a mainline Hollywood movie. Tom Cruise, surprise, plays Tom Cruise. He has two children by his ex-wife who has remarried and appears to be about 7-8 months pregnant. In the beginning it is established that he is suspect of being an irresponsible parent. His kids, a teenage boy and 7-year-old girl, have been reluctantly brought to him for his turn of custody. He is late to pick them up, his house is messy, the sleeping arrangements are questionable, etc. etc. Get it? He is suspected of being inadequate as a parent. This point must be established or else the rest of the plot will make even less sense than it does.

After his ex and her husband leave for Boston all hell breaks loose. After a lightening storm, from out of the ground emerge these huge, alien, killing machines which are threatening to destroy all life on earth.

Tom Cruise witnesses much of the killing and destruction. He has a dilemma. Thousands of people are being killed. The town is being destroyed. He has his two kids on his hands. What to do?

His 7-year-old daughter solves the problem when she whines, “I want my mommy.”

There it is. Tom Cruise has found out what to do. He will prove to his family that he if a responsible parent by bringing the kids to their mother.

That’s right boys and girls. I’ve written about quests before and how every action-adventure story must revolve around them. The larger, more important the quest, the more interest is generated in the story. The quest here, while civilization as we know it is coming to an end, is for Tom Cruise to prove to his family that he is a responsible parent! He will take the kids to their 7-8 months pregnant mother in Boston. How this will benefit the kids is not clear but that is the quest.

Fortunately for the movie, there are two stories. The silly one above written by Hollywood, and the brilliant one written by H. G. Wells over 70 years ago. The second story is followed closely by Steven Spielberg and is more than a salvation for the movie. It makes the movie a must see. Do not wait for it to come on TV or for the DVD. It will not be nearly as good on the small screen. Go to your nearest high tech theatre and see this movie on a big screen. You will thank me.

To my unpracticed eye, the special effects are awesome. There is one brief, less than 10 second, scene with a train passing through that is amazing. How good is this movie? I, non-theatre going me, will go to see it again. That means I give it 5 stars on the H. G. Wells portion. For the Hollywood silliness, I give it one star.

But in truth, there is only one scene in the cellar of a house during which I longed for the book on my lap and light to read it by. That makes it a pretty good movie overall.

More Hollywood silliness: This movie is rated PG-13. If it had a shot of a bare tit, it would be rated R. There were body parts flying everywhere but, because they were clothed, the movie got a PG-13 rating. That is more than silliness, it is insanity.


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