Rare delights

Surat Thani can be a tough place for a cinemaphile. There are only a handful of places where you can catch a movie but of course, this being a Thai place for Thai people, an English language film is a rarity indeed. Unless you fancy enduring a badly dubbed feature and filling in the  dialogue yourself it’s back to downloads on the laptop or pirated DVDs. So when the Coliseum starts showing flicks in the Queen’s own English it’s time to drop what you’re doing and get down there.

Hence Em and I got dolled up to the nines last night (okay, I just put on jeans and a shirt, that’s dressy for me) and headed out  on a date to see – wait for it – Prince Of Persia. Yup, a Disney adaptation of a video game, hardly a recipe for cinematic superiority but like I say, beggars can’t be choosers.

(Sidetrack. Beggars CAN be choosers as an ex and I found out over a decade ago in Edinburgh. Running for a bus, Kate handed her hastily bought steak pie to a dishevelled chap asking for money on Lothian Road. “What kind is it?” “Steak.” “No thanks mate, I’m a vegetarian”. Dude – if it’s a choice between meat and starvation I heartily recommend feasting on the flesh. Seriously. Anyway, back to the movies…)

Coliseum is a recently built mall in the centre of Surat and the foyer of the cinema area suggests a pretty swanky set-up. My mind drifts back to the luxury of the VUE’s VIP screens in Edinburgh, all comfy seats, waiter service, the works. Then there are the sofas and footstools in the Dominion, the old-school charm of the Cameo. Well the Coliseum has comfy seats, I’ll give you that, but there the similarity ends.

All screens are air-conditioned but to a ridiculous level. It’s part-cinema, part-Arctic expedition simulator. Seriously, my feet almost got frostbite by the end of the movie. Plus back home they have a guy called the projectionist whose job is to keep the movie in focus, the sound at the right levels and seamlessly change reels when required. In Surat they just drag a drunk off the street and prop him up against the projector, hoping that he’ll occasionally nudge the right button, all with predictable results. The movie jumps in and out of focus, sound alternates from stereo to mono and rarely the film just vanishes into the ether altogether.

Then there’s the bizarre intro. You see Thailand is a monarchy and they seriously love their king. Pictures of him adorn every home and workplace in the country, foreigners are advised not to discuss him in any way and they have sever lesse majeste laws which mean that the slightest disparaging remark or drawing could see you slammed up in a less-than-pleasant jail for a considerable amount of time. I’ll be honest – I actually like the guy. He’s a photographer, a jazz saxophonist and has helped the country, especially the rural poor, to an amazing extent during his reign. He makes our inbred, fuckwitted goon squad look even more ridiculous than normal.

Still, my anti-monarchy principles run deep and it rankles just a little that I’m required to stand and listen to the national anthem while watching a collage of kingly footage before I watch Prince Of Persia.

Which brings me back to the movie. Like I say it was a Disney video game  adaptation and did exactly what it said on the tin. The dialogue was corny, the plot contrived and the ending an enormous cop-out. But that’s what it was there for. It was fun, Mr Bruckheimer did his usual job of making sure the action was over-the-top and the scenery exceedingly pretty. Jake Gyllenhall actually makes a damn fine cheesey muscle-bound hero and there’s a smashing turn by Alfred Molina to boot.

On top of that I was accompanied by the purtiest gal in all Surat so I was a happy camper.

My only complaints? Trailers for the next installment of the “Ooh, look at me, I’m a teenage gay vampire” series which seems to be keeping panties moist the world over and also for the sacrilegious raping of the Karate Kid series, both of which will no doubt soon be taking up valuable screen real estate in the next month or so. We may be starved for flicks but wild horse couldn’t drag me to see anything to do with Twilight or Will Smith’s spawn.

Last point – I found out that upstairs in Coliseum they have some shooty arcade games, the kind I used to be addicted to (Virtua Cop, Time Crisis, etc), at only 10 baht a pop. Even better, they have the classic Gunblade which means I have a score to settle. Last time I played that was in London’s Trocadero about 15 years ago and I ended up having a seizure (my poor wee bro thought I was being electrocuted by the machine) thanks to side-effects of the anti-depressants I was on. Bring on the rematch motherfucker, I’m off the meds and my trigger finger’s getting itchy…


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