Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 20-26, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Picking up from last year's entry in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 follows heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she escapes from the Quarter Quell death-game only to return home to District 12 and find it utterly destroyed.

She then moves on to District 13, where she agrees to be the figurehead of a rebellion against the Capitol. However, difficulties arise when she discovers her longtime guy pal Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has been taken prisoner and is being used as a tool against the rebellion.

Julianne Moore joins the cast this time around, portraying President Alma Coin, the leader of insurgent District 13.

Returnees include Donald Sutherland as Panem's President Snow and Woody Harrelson as Katniss' mentor Haymitch. And Philip Seymour Hoffman puts in one of his last filmed appearances before he died in February, reprising his role from last year's Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Critical reception is crazily positive. But keep in mind, this is only a placeholder for the big finale, Mockingjay Part 2, which doesn't come out until a year from now.

And something else to watch out for – in Thailand, the Hunger Games films are controversial because the three-fingered salute used by the rebels has been adopted by anti-coup protesters. On Wednesday, students used the salute to protest a visit by coup leader and prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha. And, having had business disrupted in the past by political protests, Apex cinemas has decided to not show the film, so no Hunger Games at Lido or Scala. Rated 15+

Also opening

Magic in the Moonlight – Woody Allen directs this comedy, set in the 1920s' French Riviera, about a curmudgeonly English magician (Colin Firth) who performs as a Chinese conjurer. He’s asked by a friend to expose a young woman (Emma Stone) who claims to be a spirit medium but her wealthy clients are convinced she’s a hoax. Simon McBurney, Jacki Weaver, Hamish Linklater and Marcia Gay Harden also star. Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being this is minor Woody. Rated G

Bittersweet Chocolate – The description I was given for this doesn't match the gross poster. But maybe that'll make folks curious. Oompon Kitikamara directs this indie thriller about a mother who surprises her son with a birthday treat – an ultra-dark and bittersweet chocolate cake. Its mysterious taste makes strange things happen. It's at House on RCA.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Lawrence Kasdan gives the '90s generation their own "big chill" with Grand Canyon, tonight. Tomorrow, there's Jack Nicholson in one of his most unhinged performances in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Saturday is another classic Johnny Depp performance, portraying the legendary maker of some of the worst movies ever in Tim Burton's Ed Wood – probably the best movie Burton has ever made. Bring your mother on Sunday for the black-and-white horror classic Psycho. And next Wednesday is a special event – join the club if you want to find out what. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes.

Alliance Française – France during World War I has been the theme of this month's screenings. Next week's offering is the 2005 made-for-TV documentary Premier Noel Dans Les Tranchées (First Christmas in the Trenches), which covers the Christmas truce of 1914, when troops on all sides of the bloody trench war laid down their arms for the holiday and celebrated together. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, November 26.

Take note

Apologies for neglecting to mention the Spanish Film Festival that was held last weekend at SF World Cinema. For some reason, word of it did not reach me. I aim to keep track of such events, but this one slipped through the cracks. Again, sorry.

It's a light week for new openings this week as multiplexes clear the decks for The Hunger Games. But the next two weeks will be busy, with bunches of movies opening – big tentpoles like Ridley Scott's Exodus and Disney's Big Hero 6 among them – plus His Majesty the King's birthday coming up on December 5. There is talk of several special screenings in honor of the King, so I hope to hear more about those beforehand.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 13-19, 2014

Vengeance of the Assassin

Acclaimed action director and choreographer Panna Rittikrai passed away on July 20, 2014 at age 53 and was best known for his work as a stunt coordinator on Ong-Bak and other movies starring his protege Tony Jaa.

But Panna was also a fine director in his own right, and his last film was Vengeance of the Assassin (Rew Talu Rew, เร็วทะลุเร็ว), which was actually completed a year or two ago and for some reason kept hidden away in the vaults at Sahamongkol Film International. Until now.

The story reunites Panna with two of his other discoveries besides Tony Jaa – actor "Diew" Chupong Changprung and actress "Nui" Kessarin Ektawatkul – action stars who made their debut in 2004 with Panna's big-studio directorial comeback Born to Fight, an insanely fun flick involving a bunch of national athletes battling a Burmese drug lord in a remote border village.

In Rew Talu Rew, Diew Chupong is a vengeance-seeking young man who gets involved with a group of professional assassins. He saves the life of a young woman he may have been hired to kill, and is then framed for kidnapping. He's then forced to work with his estranged brother (Nantawut Boonrabsab) to find who is out to get him.

An English-subtitled trailer offers a glimpse at Panna's flashy martial-arts moves and trademark dangerous stunts – guys are falling from a train and getting painfully banged around. If you're into action movies and martial arts, it's one not to be missed. Rated 18+

Also opening

The Hundred-Foot Journey – After a week of sneak previews, this cloying bit of harmless fluff from director Lasse Hallstrom and producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey moves to a wider release. Helen Mirren stars as a snooty Frenchwoman who runs a Michelin-starred traditional French restaurant in a French village. The refined air is shaken up by the arrival of an Indian family, whose patriarch (Om Puri) opens an Indian curry palace right across the road from Madame Mallory's place. While those two lock horns, the Indian restaurant's talented young chef (Manish Dayal) finds himself attracted to the lady sous chef (Charlotte Le Bon ) at the rival eatery. Critical reception is mixed. Rated G

Before I Go to Sleep – Nicole Kidman is going crazy! She wakes up every day with no memory as the result of a traumatic accident. But terrifying truths begin to emerge that make her question everything she thinks she knows about her life. Colin Firth and Mark Strong also star. Rowan Joffe (Brighton Rock) directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Ouija – Yet another board game makes the leap to the big screen. In Ouija, which like Battleship, G.I. Joe and Transformers, is based on a Hasbro product, friends use the spirit board to search for clues into the death of one of their own, who died while playing the game alone. Don't do that. Critical reception is overwhelmingly poor. Rated 15+

The Pact II – A young woman (Camilla Luddington) plagued by nightmares is given some unsettling news by a FBI special agent (Patrick Fischler) – there's a copycat of these deceased Judas Killer and she's his next target. Critical reception is generally poor. Rated 15+

Kill Dil – A loose rip-off in the name and style of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, this Bollywood action-comedy-romance has two roaming killers (Ranveer Singh and Ali Zafar) coming into conflict over a free-spirited young woman (Parineeti Chopa). It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya.

Also showing

25 Years of Freedom: The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Transformation of Central Europe – The embassy of Germany, with cooperation from Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, is mounting an exhibition and film series at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, marking a quarter century since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Opening yesterday – 25 years to the day that the first openings in the wall appeared – the exhibition runs until November 23. The film schedule got underway yesterday with the comedy Good Bye, Lenin! Apologies. I didn't hear about this event until now. Tonight, it's the Oscar-winning thriller The Lives of Others, about a East German secret police officer who is conflicted about his work at a covert listening post. Tomorrow is the 1964 East German classic, Divided Heaven, about a couple struggling to stay together as the wall comes up. The shows are at 6pm and are in German with English subtitles. Entry is free.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, a fall down some stairs sends a travel writer n a different direction. It's The Accidental Tourist, starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis, part of a monthlong look at the films of Lawrence Kasdan. Halloween continues on Fridays this month with the king of the creepy-kid movies, 1976's Satanic-possession tale The Omen. Saturday, it's one of Johnny Depp's finest performances. He's gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson in Terry Gilliam's wonderfully demented Fear and Loathing and Las Vegas. And on Sunday it's more black-and-white horror classics with 1931's Frankenstein. Next Wednesday, it's "animation for adults" with Waltz With Bashir, which covers the 1982 Lebanon War in epic style and is perhaps the only animated feature documentary ever made. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes.
Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The 2014 edition of the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series comes to a close with one of last year's most-acclaimed Thai films, Tang Wong (ตั้งวง), a teen coming-of-age drama and social satire. Directed by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee (whose So Be It was recently in cinemas), the story centers on four boys living in a Bangkok housing block who each make a vow to a spirit-house shrine in hopes of achieving success in their various endeavors. To honor the vow, they must learn a traditional Thai dance, which none of them knows much about. So they hire a neighbor, a transgender dancer at the Erawan shrine, to teach them. Much acclaimed at festival appearances worldwide, Tang Wong swept up most of Thailand's major film awards this year. The screening is at 7pm on Monday, November 17 at the FCCT. Producer Soros Sukhum will be present to talk about the film and answer questions. Admission for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht more for anyone wanting to drink Thai wine.

ExpatZ – A short film made in Thailand that has been winning awards at fests worldwide makes its Bangkok premiere next week at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Directed by Jimmie Wing, ExpatZ is a psychedelic horror-comedy mash-up set in the totally fictional country of Wighland. There, a foreign TV journalist encounters all sorts of colorful characters as he tracks down a rogue retired American military officer. It recently picked up the grand prize for best short film at the Urban Nomad Film Festival in Taiwan, which praised the film for its "humorous and visually alluring style." The screening is set for Wednesday, November 19, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The event starts at 6pm with hamburgers, followed by the film at 7pm. Wing will talk and answer questions later, along with co-leads Soontorn Meesri and Lex Luther. Kamonrat Ladseeta, who plays Madame Quoits, the wife of Commander Quoits (Darren Potter), will also field questions.

Alliance Française – France during World War I has been the theme of this month's screenings. Next week's movie is the 1962 classic Jules et Jim, François Truffaut's tragic romance about the love triangle between Bohemian friends – Frenchman Jim (Henri Serre), shy Austrian Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jules' girlfriend and later wife Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, November 19.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 6-12, 2014


Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan heads into space with Interstellar, an epic sci-fi thriller that's already being compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It's a time not far into the future, and Earth is dying. So NASA mounts a last-ditch mission, sending four astronauts through a wormhore to the far reaches of the galaxy in the hope they'll find a planet that'll sustain life.

Matthew McConaughy stars as the cowboy-philosopher pilot of the spacecraft. Still in the midst of his "McConaissance", he's still hot from his Oscar win for last year's Dallas Buyers Club as well as his work on HBO's True Detective.

Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway also star along with Nolan regular Michael Caine.

Critical reception is mixed. "Close encounters of the lame kind," was one such naysaying review.

But it's still a spectacle. Much of the film  – yes, film – was shot in the IMAX format, and the only cinema in Bangkok that is capable of showing that version in the proper aspect ratio is the IMAX at Paragon, with Interstellar: The IMAX Experience. Rated G

Also opening

Love, Rosie – Sam Claflin and Lily Collins star in this romantic comedy about lifelong best friends who are secretly in love with each other. Critical reception is mixed. This moves to a regular release after two weeks of sneak previews. Rated 15+

Namo OK (นะโม OK) – Life in a small town turns interesting with a new arrival – a westerner monk (Adam Zima) with amnesia. As he takes up work at the temple and tries to regain his memories, residents speculate about who he really is. Thitipong Chaisati directs this comedy for Phranakorn Film. Rated 15+

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends – This is a finale to an epic blockbuster live-action trilogy adaptation of a popular manga about a wandering former samurai who has taken a vow to never kill again. The movies have been dominating the box office in Japan. In part three, Kenshin (Takeru Sato) trains with his old master to learn his final technique so that he will be ready to confront his arch-nemesis and former counterpart Shishiro (Tatsuya Fujiwara). Japanese soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles is at SF cinemas at CentralWorld and Terminal 21; it's Thai-dubbed elsewhere. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The films of director Lawrence Kasdan are featured on Thursdays this month, starting tonight with the classic Baby Boomer drama The Big Chill. Still in the Halloween spirit, Fridays feature scary movies, beginning with Roman Polanski's 1968 freak-out, Rosemary's Baby. Great performances by Johnny Depp are screening on Saturdays. This week's offering is Dead Man, the wonderfully deadpan neo-western by Jim Jarmusch. Sundays have more horror, in black and white. This week has plenty of creepy kids in 1960's Village of the Damned. Wednesdays offer "animation for adults", with Disney's animated epic Fantasia screening next week. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes.

Y/Our Music – The unusual documentary Y/Our Music attracted positive buzz when it screened at the Busan International Film Festival this year, and it's set for a Bangkok screening this Saturday. The venue, also a bit unsual, is The Space Bangkok, above the 7-Eleven at Klong San Plaza, next to Hilton Millenium Bangkok. Should be ferries and hotel boats that cross the river to take you there. It runs from 7 to 11.45pm. A "laid back" evening is promised, with Isaan music to follow by Mahidolwatit khaen band. Directed by David Reeve and Waraluck Hiransrettawat, the documentary covers a diverse array of musicians all around Thailand, from "leftfield to rice field". With post-production funds from the Busan fest's Asian Network of Documentary and the Asian Cinema Fund, the film was made on a shoestring budget, with begged and borrowed equipment. Check out the trailer.

Alliance Française – Next week's movie is Les Combattants Africains, a 1983 documentary about the Africans from French territories who were drafted to fight in World War I. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, November 12.

Sneak preview

The Hundred-Foot Journey – It's star-crossed romance in a tiny French village where two restaurants, right across the road from each other, are in fierce competition. Helen Mirren is a snooty lady who runs one place, serving Michelin-starred French cuisine. An older Indian fellow (Om Puri) is a new arrival in the village, and he shakes things up with his Indian food. Meanwhile, the Indian restaurant's star chef (Manish Dayal) is attracted to the young Frenchwoman who is cooking over at the other place. Lasse Hallstrom, the master of syrupy arthouse romances like this, directs. Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey are among the producers. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly in most cinemas before opening wider next Thursday. Rated G

Take note

Originally set to run just one week, the documentary So Be It has been extended at House on RCA. It's worth a look, so see it.

It appears the Scala is being used for some kind of concert or stage production again this weekend, so no movies there through Sunday.