Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 23-June 29, 2016

Elvis and Nixon

A bizarre intersection of American pop culture and politics is recounted in Elvis and Nixon, which stars Michael Shannon as the King of Rock 'n' Roll and Kevin Spacey as Tricky Dick.

It's the story of a famous photograph taken in the Oval Office in 1970, in which the President shakes hands with the King, and Presley asked to be sworn in as a special undercover agent of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and to be given a badge.

Other stars in the indie comedy-drama include the ever-reliable Colin Hanks, plus Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville, Evan Peters, Tracy Letts and Tate Donovan.

Critical reception is mostly favorable.

Also opening

Independence Day: Resurgence – Twenty years after the first Independence Day, director Roland Emmerich gets most of the band back together for another epic of special-effects-driven global destruction. Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner are among the returnees with Will Smith among the notables not appearing. This is imagined as a reboot of the ID franchise and could be the first of a trilogy. However, early critical reception is not so good so far.

A Hologram for the King – Colin Hanks' dad is a down-and-out businessman who takes a gamble on landing a big deal with Saudi Arabia's monarch, who envisages a massive economic development rising up from the nothingness of the desert. The stressed-out exec has a panic attack, and is nursed back to health by a Saudi woman (Sarita Choudhury from Homeland), and the two hit it off in a taboo star-crossed romance. The story is based on a novel by Dave Eggers, who also wrote the screenplay. Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas) directs. Critical reception is mixed.

Queen of the Desert – Nicole Kidman portrays Gertrude Bell in this historical drama, chronicling the achievements of the intrepid British explorer, diplomat and writer in the Middle East in the late 1800s and early 1900s. James Franco, Damian Lewis and Jenny Agutter are among the other stars, along with Robert Pattinson, who plays Colonel T.E. Lawrence. It's the first feature in six years from the veteran writer-director Werner Herzog. Sadly, critical reception is generally negative.

Raman Ragav 2.0 – Nawazuddin Siddiqui portrays a serial killer who preyed on citizens in 1960s Mumbai, using a steel rod to smash victims' heads to bits. Vicky Kaushal also stars. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The European Union Film Festival is under way at CentralWorld. I covered the offerings in a special post last week. The opening film, the terrific Tale of Tales, unfortunately won't be repeated during the festival, but it has been picked up by the small Thai distributor Mono Film, and hopefully it will soon get a decent general release. There are also screenings at the usual places I cover here, the Friese-Greene Club and Alliance Francaise. But I'm not going into details about those because ...

Take note

I am cutting things short this week in order to say farewell.

It's been my pleasure to bring you news of new movie releases and film events in Bangkok these past several years, but now it is time for me to shift my focus to other matters besides what's playing in Bangkok cinemas.

I leave you with an urging to get out and watch films in the cinema, and please support Bangkok's handful of independent theaters – House and Lido and especially the Scala.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: European Union Film Festival, June 23-July 3, 2016

Sixteen films from 13 countries will screen for the general public in the long-running annual European Union Film Festival, starting next week at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

This year, the festival takes the theme “Look to the Past, See the Future”. Highlights include The Broken Circle Breakdown, a Belgian film that was a 2014 nominee for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Finland’s The Fencer, a Cold War drama that was a Golden Globe nominee, and Victoria, an innovative German crime drama that won three awards at the Berlin film fest and has been noted for its cinematography.

Other films hail from the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

There’s also a hidden 17th film from another country, Italy, which offers a one-off, invitation-only opening-night screening next Wednesday of Tale of Tales, a horror-fantasy from noted director Matteo Garrone and starring Salma Hayek.

Here is the line-up for the general public:

  • The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium’s Oscar-nominated drama takes its title from the American bluegrass music that brings together two musicians, a young man and woman, who have a daughter they name Maybelle. Tragedy then strikes.
  • Family Film – In this 2015 black comedy from the Czech Republic, a mum and dad take off for a vacation, inexplicably leaving their children and the family dog to fend for themselves.
  • The Sunfish – A third-generation Danish fisherman struggling to hold on to his livelihood finds unlikely romance when he invites a marine biologist aboard his vessel. This won many prizes, including Denmark’s 2014 Bodil Awards for best actor and supporting actress for Henrik Birch and Susanne Storm.
  • Silent Heart – A second entry from Denmark has three generations of a family reuniting amid conflict as their ailing mother wants to die before her illness worsens. Directed by Bille August, it won many prizes including best film at the 2015 Bolid Awards.
  • The Fencer – The award-winning Finnish drama is set in 1950, with a young man trapped between his World War II past and the future of Estonia as his country comes under control of the Soviet Union.
  • Standing Tall – A French judge (Catherine Deneuve) and a schoolteacher (Benoit Magimel) take up the cause of putting a juvenile delinquent (Rod Paradot) on the straight and narrow. It was a major nominee for this year’s Cesar Awards, with Magimel winning best supporting actor and newcomer Paradot named most promising actor.
  • The Sweet Escape – In another French entry, a middle-aged graphic designer seeks to change his urban lifestyle and takes up kayaking.
  • The People vs Fritz Bauer – Germany’s embattled Nazi hunter, the attorney general Fritz Bauer, comes under attack after he covertly approaches Israel’s spy service for help in tracking down Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. It was a nominee for several German Film Awards, and won best film.
  • Victoria – Winner of the Berlin Silver Bear for cinematography, this German thriller was shot in one eye-popping continuous take, and follows a young Spanish woman, a newcomer to Berlin, as she is befriended one night by four young men who turn out to be criminals.
  • Afterlife – A neurotic young man encounters the ghost of his father and the two form a bond that seemed impossible when the man was alive. From Hungary, this 2014 comedy-drama was nominated for prizes in Karlovy Vary and Palm Springs.
  • Bikes vs Cars – Sweden offers a documentary look at how bicycles stack up against other forms of transport in such cities as Los Angeles, Toronto, Sao Paulo and Copenhagen.
  • Baby (a) lone – Luxembourg’s official submission to the Oscars has troubled teenagers, a boy and girl, who meet in a school-detention programme and form a bond as they take out their frustrations with society.
  • Finn – A boy and his father, both mourning the loss the boy’s mum, who died in childbirth on Christmas Eve, find solace in music and religious symbolism. From the Netherlands, this family drama was a nominee for the Crystal Bear at the 2014 Berlin film festival.
  • Jack Strong – Poland offers a taut Cold War thriller about top Polish military official Ryszard Kuklinski, who became a spy for the US, spilling Warsaw Pact secrets in a bid to keep his country safe. Marcin Dorocinski stars, along with Patrick Wilson as Kuklinski’s CIA handler.
  • The Wolf’s Lair – Portuguese filmmaker Catarina Mourao lifts the covers off her family’s tragic past in this documentary, in which she seeks to unravel the secrets and mysteries of her family during Portugal’s dictatorship.
  • Truman – A terminally ill man is visited by an old friend, and the two set out for one last adventure, accompanied by the man’s loyal pet dog.

The European Union Film Festival opens to the general public next Thursday and runs until July 3 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld in Bangkok. The festival will then be held from July 8 to 17 at SFX Maya Chiang Mai and from July 21 to 24 at SF Cinema City, CentralPlaza Khon Kaen.

Films will have English and Thai subtitles. Tickets are Bt120 in Bangkok, Bt80 in Chiang Mai and free in Khon Kaen.

The schedule can be found online. For more details, check

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 16-22, 2016


Three award-winning Asian indie directors – Tan Shijie from Singapore, Xin Yukun from China and Sivaroj Kongsakul from Thailand – each take a crack at directing Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin in Distance
The three-segment drama has the actor in different roles in stories that explore the notion of "distance" and what it means in our societies.

The producer behind this ambitious indie project is Anthony Chen, the Singaporean filmmaker who won much acclaim for his 2013 drama Ilo Ilo. He's helped out by Thai producer Aditya Assarat, who also wrote one of the segments.

Distance previously was the opening entry in the Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei.

It's in Chinese with English and Thai subtitles at SF World Cinema CentralWorld, SFX Cinema Central Rama 9 and SFX Cinema Maya Chiang Mai. Rated 15+

Also opening

The Nice Guys – Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe team up for this buddy comedy that is a throwback to a bygone era of Hollywood comedies. Set in 1970s Los Angeles, the neo-noir story has a down-on-his-luck private eye (Gosling) getting help from a self-employed enforcer (Crowe) in investigating the mysterious death of a porn star. Shane Black, the cult-figure screenwriter of Lethal Weapon, co-wrote the script and directs. Critics love it. Rated 15+

Central Intelligence – And Thai movie distributors and cinema chains double down on buddy comedies, with this one starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart. Johnson is a former fat kid who was bullied in school. He grew up musclebound and became a CIA agent. He attends his high-school reunion while claiming to be on secret mission. He and a motor-mouthed classmate (Hart) get up to adventures while they foil a terror plot. The director is Rawson Michael Thurber, who previously helmed the comedy masterpiece Dodgeball as well as We're the Millers. Critical reception is just starting. Rated G

Finding Dory – After more than a decade of enduring the endless pestering of talk-show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres to make a sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo, animators at Disney-Pixar finally gave up and made Ellen a movie featuring her forgetful blue tang fish Dory. She starts to have flashbacks to her family, and enlists her clownfish friends Marlin and Nemo to help her. She's then captured and taken to a marine research facility, where she has to make new friends to help her in her quest. Albert Brooks is back as the voice of Marlin with other voice talent including Ed O'Neill, Idris Elba, Dominic West and many others. Critics have all drunk the Pixar Kool-Aid. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G

Udta Punjab – Four characters – a rock star, a migrant labourer, a doctor and a cop – fight the menace of drugs. Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Diljit Dosanjh star. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Third Silent Film Festival in Thailand – One of the earliest vampire films, 1922's Nosferatu opens the festival at 8 tonight at the Scala. Live musical accompaniment will be by German composer and multi-instrumentalist Gunter A. Buchwald, with percussion by Thai classical musician Anant Nark-kong. Tickets are 200 baht. The fest then shifts over to the Lido for screenings from Friday until Wednesday. Tickets are 120 baht. They are all great films and are worth seeing on the big screen with live musical accompaniment – it is an experience that can only be had in the cinema. The line-up was profiled in a special post last week. For further details, check check or

Singapore Film Festival – The third annual Bangkok showcase of Singaporean cinema gets underway today at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Running until Sunday, the fest have five entries, ranging from 1997's 12 Storeys to last year's SG50 celebration 7 Letters. It was all covered in a special post last week. Tickets are free and will be handed out 30 minutes before the shows. For more details, check the SF cinemas' site.

Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival – The second edition of the BGLFF continues until Sunday at the Quartier CineArt. Lots of worthwhile stuff. The line-up and schedule were detailed in a recent special post. Tickets are 160 baht and 180 baht. Please note that there are no ads before the shows, so the films are generally starting on time, at least that was the case when I attended last weekend.

The Friese-Greene Club – American politics are still in focus tonight with Recount, an award-winning 2008 HBO drama about the 2000 presidential ballot recount in Florida. Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, John Hurt and Denis Leary are among the stars. Tomorrow, it's Wong Kar-wai's drama of unrequited romance In the Mood for Love, which had Bangkok locations standing in for 1960s Hong Kong. And Saturday has a "not-so-classic" foreign film made in Thailand, Sacrifice!, a 1972 Italian cannibal horror that's also known as The Man from Deep River. And Sunday's film from 75 years ago is the Josef von Sternberg thriller The Shanghai Gesture. Next Wednesday is a documentary on U.S. politics, 1960's Primary, which recalls the Democratic nomination fight between JFK and Hubert Humphrey. 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 Il était une forêt (Once Upon a Forest), a documentary by Luc Jacquet, who later did March of the Penguins. Next Wednesday's French film with English subtitles is Alda et Maria (All Is Well), in which a pair of teenage girls escape civil war in the Congo and land in Lisbon. Shows are at 7pm. Admission for the general public is 100 baht.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The Contemporary World Film Series has one more movie this month, with Le meraviglie (The Wonders) at 7pm on Monday. An Italian-Swiss drama, it's about a family of beekeepers in the Tuscan countryside who have their quiet lives disrupted by the arrival of a troubled teenage boy and by a reality-TV crew. Directed by Alice Rohrwacher, it won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. Admission is 150 baht for non-members plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the wine and cheese laid on by the Swiss Embassy.

Take note

House cinema is still closed for renovations. The place was to reopen today, but work is taking a bit longer than expected, now lasting until June 22.

The European Union Film Festival kicks off next week at CentralWorld, running June 22 to July 3.

And the oddball Thailand International Film Destination Festival has finally got around to simply stating when it will take place. Drumroll please: July 4 to 13 at Paragon Cineplex.