Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ong-Bak 2 banished by aliens, but gets positive reviews

The non-stop action of Tony Jaa's martial-arts magnum opus Ong-Bak 2 could not withstand the force of an alien invasion.

In its second week in Thai cinemas, Ong-Bak 2 dropped to second place at the box office, topped by The Day the Earth Stood Still, which stars Keanu Reeves as an alien who's come to tell Earthlings their time is at an end.

Box Office Mojo has the figures.

Rounding out the top five are the teen vampire romance Twilight in third and Beverly Hills Chihuahua in fourth.

Fifth place was held by Transporter 3, which opened for a sneak preview run before a wider release this week.

Transporter 3's move was echoed by the sneak preview run of a Thai film - the romantic weeper Happy Birthday, which is also scheduled for a wider opening this week. Starring Ananda Everingham and Chayanan Manomaisantiphap, and directed by Pongpat Wachirabunjong, the Mono Film release was in sixth place.

Meanwhile, Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak 2 has attracted the eyes of a couple of prominent Asian cinema bloggers: Subway Cinema's Brian of Asian Cinema - While on the Road, and Tokyo-based film writer and translator Jason Gray.

Here is an excerpt from Brian's review:

This is manna for action junkies – continuous injections of eye opening ferocious poundings that will keep you hard and happy. Other than a throwaway cameo from Jaa’s good-luck charm Mum Jokmok, there isn’t a light moment in the film – it is surly, mean and angry. Jaa appears to be discharging whatever inner demons he had with set pieces of brutal physical violence that never pauses for mercy. Yet the physical artistry on display is so breathtakingly astonishing and imaginative that the film never feels exploitive but instead almost becomes a beautiful hymn to the human form, its grace, its lack of fear, its agility and what it is capable of doing.

Jason, meanwhile, is vacationing in Thailand, taking in the sights, exploring sacred caves and royal palaces, and trying to take pictures of monkeys. He took time out to see Ong-Bak 2, and here's a bit of what he had to say:

Ong-Bak 2 surprisingly avoids coming off as a stunt and fight showreel -- it's a full-blooded movie. The story may be simplistic but it effectively sets up the revenge that burns in Tony Jaa's character of Tien since childhood, enhanced by the well-edited time jumping structure. Tony Jaa proves he can direct more than just action but smartly sticks to drama that springs from action.

Midnight movie audiences around the world will cry tears of worship. To all my friends and acquaintances who program films at fantastic fests in Europe and North America -- disregard all rules about premieres and proximity and just show it.

Comments at other websites and forums have different takes on Ong-Bak 2. Check out the feedback at Enjoy Thai Movies and at Twitch.

Update: Andy's Cambodia airs concerns that Ong-Bak 2 could renew a longstanding cultural and political beef between Thailand and Cambodia, because of the Khmer imagery being used as a backdrop in the film.

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