Sunday, March 20, 2011

Capsule reviews: Teng Nong Jiwon Bin, Panya Reanu, The Microchip

Teng Nong Jiwon Bin (เท่งโหน่ง จีวรบิน) – This airborne action comedy spends more time on the ground and the two comedians who star in it don't actually share much screen time together. Pongsak Pongsuwan, a.k.a Teng Terdterng, who co-directs with Smith Timsawat, is a Thai monk on a Buddhist pilgrimage to Tibet. He gets a ride back to Thailand in the antique cargo plane – a C-123 military transport like was used in Con Air – owned by the gregarious tycoon Boss Nong (Choosak Iamsuk). There's a parade of cameos, including "Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom as a stewardess and Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao as a "Russian" pilot. Even Workpoint producer Panya Nirunkul puts in an appearance as a Chinese TV news announcer. "Tao" Somchai Kemklad hijacks the plane and Boss Nong parachutes to safety and for the most part out of the picture. He has some amusing bits in mobile-phone video clips. Once on the ground, the movie settles into a rather dull rhythm of Teng making morning alms rounds and dispensing wisdom while the drug lord played by Somlek Sakdikul tries to open Boss Nong's safe. The film takes flight again with cartoonish CGI. Monk Teng uses his saffron robes to abseil outside the plane. A talismanic item keeps the aircraft aloft. He refuses help from Boss Nong's secretary ("Mo" Amina Phinit) to get back into the plane – he would rather sacrifice his life than sully his monk's vows by touching a female. But, when the time comes to save everyone's lives on the plane, he has to get in the pilot's seat and move the heavenly levers and push the exhalted buttons. (3/5)

Panya Reanu (ปัญญา เรณู) – Bin Banluerit directs this sentimental, sweet and musically lively childhood romantic comedy set in a poor Isaan village. The center of the story is the childhood friendship and puppy-love triangle that develops while the schoolchildren are working to participate in a ponglang music contest. However, the community is so impoverished they can't afford the sorely needed new instruments. The star singer is a boy named Panya who is paired up, for life it seems, with the chubby loudmouthed girl Reanu. The school gets a boost from a visit by Bangkok schoolgirls and one young ladyboy on their broken-down bus. While Panya makes sweet with one of the Bangkok girls, the little ladyboy recruits his dancer friends to beef up the tiny village's music act. There's also amusing episodes that have all the village's men dressing as women to ward off a curse. Panya has a leech lodged in an uncomfortable place. The Wongkumlao clan and comedy-troupe cohorts from Mum Jokmok's Yam Yasothon movies fill out the cast in this Isaan-powered picture. (3/5)

The Microchip (ชิป /หาย, Chip/Hai) – Power Kids helmer Krissanapong Rachata directs this action comedy about a Chinese restaurant's waiter named John (Akarin Akaranitimetharat) who happens upon a dangerous video clip stored on a micro SD card. A killer cop (purported Tony Jaa replacement Simon Kook) aims to get the MacGuffin back and makes life difficult for John and his friends, who are a motley band of con artists and grifters. Among the major flaws in the meandering story is the ridiculous notion that the video clip only exists on this SD card and hasn't been copied onto someone's hard drive or uploaded to YouTube. The movie is mainly slapstick comedy, aided by members of the Wongkumlao clan. What few fight scenes exist are filmed close-in with a blurry, shaky camera, so it's hard to get a sense of how good this Simon Kook is. The hero John is weak and is no martial artist. While he cowers or runs away, his transvestite hooker friend puts up the most convincing fight. (2/5)

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