Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 26-June 1, 2016

Money Monster


Fresh from the Cannes Film Festival, Money Monster is former child star Jodie Foster's fourth effort in the director's chair.

The loaded cast boasts George Clooney and Julia Roberts, with Clooney as a brash TV financial guru and Roberts the producer who is always in his ear. They are held hostage during a live broadcast by a disgruntled man (Jack O'Connell from Unbreakable) who lost his life savings after he followed the guru's advice. The captor then forces the pair to get to the bottom of a deeper financial conspiracy. Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito and Caitriona Balfe also star.

This is the biggest and first major studio-backed effort for Foster as a director. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and Foster did the rounds of all the talk shows, promoting the film and offering her recollections on working on such films as Taxi Driver and Silence of the Lambs.

Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being it doesn't go quite deep enough. Rated 15+



Also opening


Demolition – Jake Gyllenhaal is a Wall Street investment banker who goes off the deep end after his wife is killed in a car wreck, and he copes by dismantling everything in his life. An encounter with a problematic vending machine prompts him to send a complaint letter, which begins a series of confessional correspondence with a sympathetic customer-service rep (Naomi Watts). Chris Cooper also stars. It's directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who previously earned accolades for his work on Dallas Buyers Club and WildCritical reception is mixed. It's in most multiplexes, including Apex, Century, Major Hollywood and SF, but not Major Cineplex, a development I'm told is because of a conflict between the country's biggest cinema chain and a small distributor. Rated 13+


Bastille Day – Idris Elba from TV's The Wire and Luther has had a busy season so far, lending his voice to Disney for The Jungle Book and Zootopia. Now the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom star is back in front of the camera, offering his try-out to be the next James Bond in the gritty action thriller Bastille Day, which has the imposing British actor as a CIA agent in Paris. He's on the trail of a conspiracy that ropes in an American pickpocket (Richard Madden, the erstwhile King of the North from Game of Thrones). It's written and directed by James Watkins, who previously directed The Woman in Black and wrote The Descent: Part 2. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+


Warcraft: The Beginning – The World of Warcraft fantasy online video game is adapted for the screen, with the human realm of Azeroth coming under attack from the Horde of Orcs. Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, directs, moving into big-budget special-effects-laden fare following his well-received low-budget indie sci-fi debut Moon and the bit-bigger sci-fi thriller Source Code. His involvement alone is reason enough for me not to dismiss it outright. Following the pattern of other big Hollywood releases this summer, Warcraft is opening here a couple of weeks before it comes out in the U.S., giving the movie some breathing room in foreign territories. Nonetheless, early critical reception is not so good. Rated 13+


If Cats Disappeared from the World – Cute-cat movies are a sub-genre of Japanese cinema. The latest is about a young man having an existential crisis after he learns he is terminally ill. He is visited by a devil, who dangles the chance to keep living if he'll pick one thing to eliminate from the world. The drama is adapted from a novel that was first published in Japan on the Line social-messaging app. Takeru Sato (Rurouni Kenshin) and Aoi Miyazaki (The Chart of Love) star. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square, Esplanade Ratchadaphisek, House RCA, Major Cineplex Ratchayothin and SFW CentralWorld. Outside of the city, venues are EGV Khon Kaen, Major Cineplex Central Festival Chiang Mai, MVP Buri Ram and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Rated G


Fathers (ฟาเธอร์) – Gay couple Foon (Uttsada Panichkul) and Yuk (Nat Sakdatorn) face challenges when they adopt a little boy and the kid becomes teased at school for having two dads. They then come to the attention of a social worker (Sinjai Plengpanich), who advises the fathers to track down the child's birth mother. Rated 15+


The Promise (คิดถึงครึ่งชีวิต, Kidthueng Khrueng Cheewit) – A young man returns to his home in rural Chiang Mai after he fails his university entrance exams. He helps out around his mother's food shop while studying for a do-over of the exam, and then meets a young Japanese woman (Akiko Ozeki), in Chiang Mai as a magazine writer, and memories of the past come flooding back. Rated G



Also showing


The Friese-Greene Club – The month starts winding down tomorrow night with Peter Greenaway's best-known film, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, which really encapsulates everything that is Greenaway, with sudden violence, nudity and stylish eroticism. Saturday is classic Robert Altman, who has a sprawling cast in Short Cuts, an ambitious, interweaving adaptation of several short stories of Raymond Carver. And Sunday has one more Edward G. Robinson film, his final role, co-starring with Charlton Heston in the dystopian sci-fi Soylent Green. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.


Alliance Française – Tomorrow night's French film with Thai subtitles is Je fais le mort (Playing Dead), in which a struggling actor takes a job playing victims in crime re-enactments. And June's schedule kicks off with next Wednesday's French film with English subtitles, L'affaire SK1, a fact-based crime drama about a young police inspector who makes connections that put him on the trail of a serial killer. The shows are at 7pm. Admission for the general public is 100 baht.


Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Filipino director Brillante Ma Mendoza is a favorite of film festivals, winning many, many awards around the world. His latest triumph came at Cannes, with actress Jaclyn Jose from his Ma' Rosa winning best-actress, the first Filipina to win that honor. Mendoza is also a favorite of the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series, which has its next entry at 7pm on Monday with Mendoza's award-winning 2012 drama Thy Womb, about a midwife who can't have children who wants her husband to remarry so he can become a father. Nora Aunor stars. Entry is 150 baht for non-members and 100 baht to partake in the gourmet popcorn and San Miguel laid on by the Embassy of the Philippines. June will have three more films in the series, with the U.S. Embassy offering up Spielberg's Lincoln on June 6, a pair of Pakistani short films on June 13 and the Swiss film Le Meraviglie on June 20.



Sneak preview


Me Before You – The Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke, ditches her blonde wig for Bjork buns and colorful leggings to take on the role of the manic pixie dream girl in Me Before You, portraying a quirky young woman who takes a job as a caretaker to a withdrawn wealthy young man (Sam Claflin) who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. It is based on a novel by British writer JoJo Moyes, who also adapted the screenplay. The film is possibly better known for its poster being used in the "Starring Jon Cho" campaign, criticizing Hollywood's lack of diversity and imagining what it would be like if big Hollywood films had an Asian-American leading man. Critical reception is just starting to form. This is in nightly sneak previews from Saturday until Wednesday at most multiplexes, ahead of a general release next week.



Take note

House cinema on RCA will be closed from June 1 to 15 while some renovation and repair work is undertaken.

June and July are shaping up to be a very busy time for film enthusiasts, with the unveiling of more movie events.

Already mentioned is the Silent Film Festival from June 16 to 22 at the Lido and Scala.

Dovetailing with that will be the second edition of the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival from June 10 to 19 at the Quartier CineArt.

And as if that isn't enough, CentralWorld's SF World Cinema piles on with the third edition of the freebie Singapore Film Festival in Bangkok from June 16 to 19, which will screen five award-winning Singaporean features.

Heading into July, the Thai Film Archive is formulating plans to start a series of screenings of films that were viewed in cinemas by His Majesty the King, starting with Santi-Vina, a 1954 feature that was misplaced for 60 years. It was rediscovered and restored and shown at the Cannes Film FestivalSanti-Vina will open the series of classic films in celebration of the 70th anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne, with one film a month being shown until December. The venue for this film series is yet to be announced. It is a similar idea to the Seen by H.M.K. series the Archive put on in 2012.

Also in early July, there will be another edition of the Thailand Film Office's bizarre and unique Thailand International Film Destination Festival at Paragon Cineplex, which will screen another oddball crop of little-seen foreign movies that were made in Thailand in recent years. That's in combination with the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge, a competition that jets in indie filmmakers to shoot short films in certain locations in just a few days with just a few baht.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 19-25, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse


Comic-book-obsessed Hollywood turns the page to the X-Men franchise overseen by producer-director Bryan Singer and 20th Century Fox, with X-Men: Apocalypse, in a story that is set in 1983 and deals with the re-emergence of the immortal space-faring entity Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who was worshiped as a god in ancient Egypt. He's back with plans to reshape the world to suit his needs and rallies disaffected mutants to serve as his four horsemen, among them the disillusioned Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

To counteract the threat, the telepathic mind-reader Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) puts together his own team of superpowered mutants, under the leadership of his shape-shifting blue-skinned childhood friend and off-and-on enemy Mystique, now rechristened as Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). Somehow, in the battle, Professor X will lose his hair, taking on the shiny-domed appearance he's best known for.

Actors portraying the rookie supers include Nicholas Hoult, Olivia Munn, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner (from Game of Thrones), Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McKee and Alexandra Shipp. Hugh Jackman, the only constant in the X-Men movie-verse, is also expected to put in an appearance, which isn't a spoiler because they've been teasing the his character's claws in the trailers for months.

X-Men: Apocalypse is the third film in a rebooted franchise that began with X-Men: First Class in 2011 and then 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past. It is under the banner of 20th Century Fox, and is thus mostly separate from the Disney-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe, even though those threads began to become intertwined with the MCU's Deadpool movie earlier this year.

Critical reception is mixed, making this not as good as Captain America: Civil War but perhaps not as bad as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It's in 2D as well as actual 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G



Also opening


Bolshoi Babylon – With yet another comic-book movie flooding theaters, the Documentary Club offers counter-programming with the release of an HBO Documentary Films feature from last year. Bolshoi Babylon exposes divisions in Russia's world-famous ballet troupe after its artistic director Sergei Filin was hit by an acid attack in 2013. Critical reception is generally positive. It's at SF World Cinema at Central World, SF Cinema The Crystal Ratchapruek, SFX The Crystal Ekamai Ram-Indra and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. For showtimes, please check the Documentary Club Facebook page or SF Cinemas' bookings website. Rated G



Pandemic – Following the outbreak of a virus and the collapse of society, a doctor (Rachel Nichols) and her team head to Los Angeles with the hope of finding uninfected survivors. Alfie Allen (Reek from Game of Thrones), Missi Pyle and Mekhi Phifer also star. Like the recent Hardcore Henry, this is another film made in the first-person point-of-view style, similar to first-person-shooter video games and other media. Critical reception is mixed. This appears to be at SF cinemas, as well as Major Hollywood and Century but not Major Cineplex; it was earlier listed on the leading chain's website and app but seems to have been removed. Rated 18+


Serd (เทริด) – The title means "crown", and alludes to the ornate headdress of the Manorah or Nora classical dance of southern Thailand. Singer-actor Ekachai Srivichai stars in and co-directs this drama. He portrays the ailing father of a young man named Singh (Paisan Khunnu) who rebels against family tradition and goes off to follow his dreams of being a pop musician. Singh then falls in love with Saithip (second runner-up Miss Universe Thailand 2015 Anchalika Na Phatthalung), a young woman who is a Manorah dancer. He is then inspired to return home and follow in his father's footsteps as a Nora master. Winai Kraibutr and Siwat Chotchaicharin also star, and Pakphum Wonjinda co-directs. Rated 15+


Sarbjit – Injustices and rocky India-Pakistan relations are highlighted in this female-centered tale about an Indian farmer who, as the story goes, had a bit too much to drink one night and strayed across the border into Pakistan, where he was captured, accused of spying and terrorism and sent to a prison's death row, where he languished for 23 years. Bollywood leading lady Aishwarya Rai sheds her usual glamorous looks to portray the man's sister Dalbir, who wages a decades-long campaign to clear her brother's name. Randeep Hooda also stars. It's directed by Omung Kumar, who previously did the biopic of Indian female boxer Mary Kom. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.




Also showing


The Friese-Greene Club – Orson Welles Thursdays continue tonight with Compulsion, which has Welles in front of the lens as a lawyer defending law students in a murder case. Tomorrow's "Over-rated or Under-appreciated?" entry is Peter Greenaway's A Zed and Two Noughts while Saturday has Robert Altman's Hollywood satire The Player, which opens with one of the best-regarded long tracking shots in cinema history. Sunday, it's adventure on the high seas with Edward G. Robinson in Michael Curtiz' The Sea Wolf. Next Wednesday's Jim Jarmusch offering is the unusual and wryly entertaining Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, which has Forest Whitaker as a mob hitman who adheres to the bushido code. It's one of my favorite movies. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.


Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice – The Female Perspective – The Bangkok Art and Culture Center's Cinema Diverse begins a new season this Saturday with Soraya Nakasuwan leading off the first in a series of screenings of films chosen by Thai female filmmakers. Soraya made her breakthrough with the 2007 commercially released documentary Final Score, about schoolboys struggling to prepare for the crucial, life-changing university entrance exams. She has chosen The Pearl Button, a nature documentary by Chilean director Patricio Guzmán, on the indigenous people of Chile’s remote Tierra del Fuego archipelago. “The Pearl Button tells the story of the history of Chile and how that history is profoundly intertwined with the ocean. Jemmy Button was a boy from a small island. He was one of the island's original inhabitants and he was sold in an exchange for a pearl button. Later he was unable to reconnect with his former identity upon returning to the island. The Pearl Button is presented like a film essay in narrative form with breath-taking and delicate cinematography,” says Soraya. Registration opens at 4pm with the show at 5pm on Saturday in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium. Afterward, there will be question-and-answer time with Soraya, in Thai with English translation. Others taking part in the series are Wanweaw and Weawwan Hongvivatana on July 23, Pimpaka Towira on September 24 and Anocha Suwichakornpong on November 19.



Alliance Française – There is no Friday French movie with Thai subtitles this week because of the Visakha Bucha public holiday. Next Wednesday at 7pm, there's a French film with English subtitles, the 2015 romance La belle saison (Summertime), in which a French farmgirl moves to 1970s Paris and falls in love with a woman, a militant feminist schoolteacher. The next French film with Thai subtitles is on Friday, May 27. Admission for the general public is 100 baht.



Take note

Details are beginning to emerge about the third edition of the Silent Film Festival in Thailand, which will have a 1922 adaptation of Hamlet as part of its program running from June 16 to 22 at the Lido and Scala cinemas in Siam Square.

Stay tuned also, for news of a local screening or screenings of Santi-Vina, a historic 1954 Thai romantic drama that was "lost" and resurfaced to be shown this year at the Cannes Film Festival.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 12-18, 2016

Embrace of the Serpent


The first film from the South American country of Colombia to be nominated for an Academy Award, Embrace of the Serpent is a look at the Amazon forest as seen through the eyes of a shaman and sole survivor of his tribe, in a story that tracks him over 40 years and covers his travels with two foreigner scientists who are searching for a sacred plant with psychedelic properties.

The story is based on the journals of German ethnologist Theodor Koch-Grunberg, who explored the Amazon in the early 1900s, and American botanist Richard Evans Schultes, who went there in the 1940s.

Filmed in glorious black and white, this rare motion picture is brought to cinemas by HAL Film, the indie distribution outfit that previously offered the unusual "foreign" films White God and The Tribe, and is determined to give movie-goers rewarding alternatives to the endless comic-book movies.

In addition to making the short-list of nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, Embrace of the Serpent won the Art Cinema Award at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as accolades at Rotterdam, Sundance and many other fests. Critical reception is overwhelmingly praiseworthy.

It's in the original soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles at Esplanade Ratchada, House on RCA, Major Cineplex Ratchayothin, Paragon, SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and SFX The Crystal Ekamai Ram-Indra. Rated 15+



Also opening



The Man Who Knew Infinity – Dev Patel, the English-Indian actor who made his breakthrough in Slumdog Millionaire and was also featured on the HBO series The Newsroom, stars in this fact-based biographical drama, portraying Srinivasa Ramanujan, the Indian mathematician who instinctively pioneered many theories despite having little formal training. The British production follows his rise from a humble upbringing in Madras to his acceptance into Cambridge University, where he encounters discrimination as he attempts to prove his theories. Ultimately, his genius is recognized and he becomes a close collaborator with fellow pioneering maths theorist G.H. Hardy, who is played by Jeremy Irons. Other stars include Toby Jones, Stephen Fry and Jeremy Northham. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 15+


The Angry Birds Movie – It's been seven years since the iPad time-waster rocketed to popularity. Now comes a movie that will further cement the addictive Finnish game's place in pop culture. The Sony Pictures Imageworks animated feature attempts to tell the origin story of the main angry bird, a feathered misfit named Red, who for some reason has a chip on his wings and is always angry. Assigned to attend an anger-management retreat, he becomes suspicious about the mysterious arrival of strange green pigs and struggles to rally the other birds against what he sees as an alien invasion. Jason Sudekis voices the main character with other voices provided by Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Sean Penn, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Bill Hader and Peter Dinklage. This doesn't come out in the U.S. until next week, so the studios get a week to make bank in unsuspecting overseas territories without the benefit of mainstream critical reception. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated G



Equals – Two fine actors, Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult, star in this science-fiction romantic thriller about youngsters who live in a society where emotions have been outlawed and love is strictly forbidden. Nonetheless, biology tends to override any genetic engineering and they are tragically drawn to each other. Other stars include Jacki Weaver and Guy Pearce. This does not come out in the U.S. until July, and critical reception, so far, is tepid. Rated 15+


Embracing Khemarat (อ้อมกอดเขมราฐ, Aom-Kod-Khemarat) – Three loosely connected stories of romance take place in idyllic Khemarat, a small town in Ubon Ratchathani on the banks of the Mekong. They involve a young female physician who is posted to the local hospital and runs into cute conflict with the owner of a local coffee shop. Other stories have a young Lao immigrant woman who falls for a photographer and a "nerdy girl" who has attracted the eye of a quiet and shy schoolboy rock musician. Among the stars are Miss Thailand 2009 runner-up Kobkullaya Chuengprasertsri, who is an actual physician. Other stars are "Fluke" Teerapat Lohanan, "Palmy" Nantariya Namboon, "Tao" Phusin Warinrak, "Nong" Puttason Seedawan and "Golf" Anuwat Chucherdwattana. The film is written and produced by Dr Ritt Pokkrittayahariboon, a surgeon and businessman who settled in Khemarat and wanted to make a movie to promote the town and its attractions. The Nation had a bit more about it. Rated 15+


The Bodyguard – The formidable martial-arts actor Sammo Hung, the "big brother" of Jackie Chan who is still best known in Thailand as Hung Chin Pao for his string of 1980s Hong Kong action films, is back in action in The Bodyguard. He's an ageing former lawman from Beijing who has retired to a border town. He takes up the cause of protecting an innocent neighbor girl and runs into conflict with Russian gangsters, making this essentially a Chinese remake of Denzel Washington's The EqualizerCritical reception is mixed. It's Thai-dubbed in most places but has the Chinese soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles at the usual downtown multiplexes, including Esplanade Ratchada, Paragon, Quartier CineArt and SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Rated 15+


Azhar – The life of controversial Indian cricketer-turned-politician Mohammad Azharuddin is dramatized in this Bollywood picture, chronicling his accomplishments as batsman as well as his involvement in a match-fixing scandal toward the end of his career. Emraan Hashmi stars along with Prachi Desai and Nargis Fakhri. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya.



Also showing


The Friese-Greene Club – The club has a private event tonight but is back open tomorrow with sex and swimming pools in Peter Greenaway's erotic murder drama Drowning by Numbers from 1988. On Saturday, a housecat steals the scene in The Long Goodbye, Robert Altman's adaptation of a Philip Marlowe mystery, starring Elliot Gould. Sunday has another Fritz Lang film-noir starring Edward G. Robinson in Scarlet Street. And next Wednesday is a mid-career Jim Jarmusch feature, five taxi-cab tales in Night on Earth. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.


Alliance Française – There is no Friday French movie with Thai subtitles this week because there is a jazz concert. Saturday has the monthly "kids' movie", with the animated feature Mia et le Migou, a fantasy-adventure about a girl in South America who leaves her impoverished village in search of her father and has an encounter in the jungle with giant beings. The show is at 2pm. Next Wednesday at 7pm, there's a French film with English subtitles, the 2015 romantic comedy Caprice, which involves a triangular romance between a hapless guy, the actress he has a crush on and the pesky girl who inserts herself into the situation. Admission for the general public is 100 baht.


Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Small-town secrets are spilled in The Sweet Hereafter, about a lawyer trying to persuade families to take part in a class-action lawsuit over a school-bus crash that killed 14 children. The much-acclaimed 1997 drama is by Canadian director Atom Egoyan, and it won many prizes, including the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for two Academy Awards. Ian Holm stars as the lawyer, who has his own conflicts to deal with on top of the dysfunction of the townspeople. Part of the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series, the screening is at 7pm on Monday, May 16, and is supported by the Embassy of Canada. Entry is 150 baht for non-members and 100 baht for the wine and snacks. There will be another entry in the series on Monday, May 30, with Thy Womb, a drama by noted independent Filipino director Brillante Ma Mendoza.



Take note

The landmark Scala remains committed to the profession of showing movies, despite being threatened with imminent closure by landlord Chulalongkorn University, which is keen to redevelop Siam Square. The Scala's devoted management recently installed a new screen because the old one was showing its age and was long past due for an upgrade. The result is a much clearer and brighter picture that makes going to movies at the Scala well worth your while. It is the best value in movie-going in Bangkok. Please support the Scala while it exists.

Meanwhile, general Thai public awareness of the Scala's plight is finally starting to emerge, perhaps too little, too late. There was a Nation editorial this week, and there is also a Thai-language Change.org petition that asks Chula U. to "keep Scala" open and recognize that its unique cultural and architectural values outweigh the supposed economic benefits of building yet another shopping mall in a city already saturated by shopping malls.