Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 2-8, 2015

The Wolfpack

Six unusual brothers, kept locked away in their Manhattan apartment by a stern father and homeschooled by their mother, learned most of what they know about pop culture and life itself from watching movies. They grew up spending their days re-creating favorite films such as Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight with homemade props and costumes.

It's The Wolfpack, a documentary by Crystal Moselle, who makes her debut as a director. She spent several years getting to know the Angulo brothers, all with Sanskrit names, Mukunda, Narayana, Govinda, Bhagavan, Krisna and Jagadesh. They were raised by a strict Peruvian dad, who forbade his children and his American wife from leaving their apartment on Manhattan's Lower East Side. At one point, the boys didn't leave the apartment for an entire year. But they eventually came to light when 15-year-old Mukunda was the first to venture outside, scaring the neighbors with his Friday the 13th hockey-goalie mask.

Screened at the Sundance Film Festival this year, The Wolfpack captured the hearts of industry figures, and went on to win the festival's Grand Prize for U.S. Documentary. Critical reception is generally positive.

The Wolfpack comes to cinemas as part of the ongoing Doc Holiday series, put on by the Documentary Club and SF cinemas. Shows are at 3, 5, 7 and 9 through Wednesday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It's also screening at 8 night from tomorrow to Sunday at SFX Maya Chiang Mai.

Additional showtimes and venues may be added. To find out more, check Facebook. Advance bookings are encouraged through the SF Cinemas website.

Terminator Genisys

The thing about the Terminator franchise is that the timeline is continually changing. It is canon. And whenever a character travels back in time, multiple timelines are altered and splintered. So there is no limit to what the studios want to do. If something doesn't work, they can just hit reset and try again. And it doesn't matter if it makes sense.

So now we have Terminator Genisys, which like the 1984 movie has resistance leader John Connor sending lone warrior Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother Sarah Connor from being killed by the machines of Skynet. Original series star Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as a cyborg guardian. It'll be interesting to see how they explain the machine-man's head of gray hair and wrinkled appearance.

Other stars are Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard), with Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke taking a break from being the mother of dragons to be the mother of future human society.

She follows GoT castmate Lena Headey in the role of Sarah Connor, Headey having portrayed the heroine mum in TV's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which ran for two seasons and was actually pretty cool.

Alan Taylor takes over as director. A veteran helmer who previously did Thor: The Dark World, he's best known for his work on TV series such as Game of Thrones and The Sopranos.

Terminator Genisys is the fifth feature film in the franchise. It follows 2009's Terminator Salvation, which tied in with the TV series but was a failed attempt at a reboot. Perhaps Genisys will take hold, but critics aren't so sure. Perhaps it's time to lower this franchise into a pool of molten steel.

It's in 2D and converted 3D, including IMAX. Rated 13+

Also opening

The Trials of Cate McCall – Kate Beckinsale is Cate McCall, a former hot-shot lawyer whose career went off the rails. Newly sober and trying to rebuild her life, she is assigned to defend a woman who has been framed for murder. But her search for evidence uncovers conspiracy and corruption in the police department. Nick Nolte, James Cromwell, Clancy Brown and Mark Pellegrino also star. It's helmed by Karen Moncrief, a TV actress who is adding to her credits as a writer-director. Critical reception isn't a thing, even though this movie has already aired on the Lifetime channel in the U.S. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Canadian comedies, "midnight" movies, precocious girls, bad kids and imaginary friends are featured in July. Tonight, it's Eraserhead, the disturbing and mind-blowing cult classic from David Lynch, which is a regular staple on the midnight-movie circuit. Tomorrow's precocious girl is Brooke Shields, portraying a 12-year-old New Orleans prostitute in Louis Malle's controversial Pretty Baby. Saturday's "bad kids" are boys marooned on an island in 1963's Lord of the Flies. On Sunday, the bartender won't flinch if you order two martinis for just yourself. It's James Stewart in Harvey. And next Wednesday is the hilariously uneven comedy Canadian Bacon, documentarian Michael Moore's first and only foray into scripted features. John Candy stars, in one of his last performances. Shows are at 8pm (even the "midnight" movies). 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.

Marathon 19 – Each year, the Thai Film Foundation receives hundreds upon hundreds of entries for the annual Thai Short Film and Video Festival, and each year all those entries are screened in a monthlong marathon preceding the festival. This year, the Short Film Marathon starts on Saturday, July 4, and runs until August 2, with screenings in the little FA Cinematheque on the second floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Shows run from 4.30 to 8.30 Tuesday to Friday and 11am to 8.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The BACC is closed on Mondays. The 19th Thai Short Film and Video Festival is set for August 13 to 23 at the BACC. For more details, check the fest's Facebook page.

Alliance Française – Next week's screening is Hannah Arendt, which depicts the German Jewish writer and philosopher as she covers  the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, and presents her controversial thoughts about "the banality of evil". Margarethe Von Trotta directs and Barbara Sukowa stars. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 8, at the Alliance.

Take note

The European Union Film Festival runs from July 10 to 19 at SFW CentralWorld and is covered in a special post. Happily, you won't have to queue up in a long line to get free tickets. However, the convenience of booking your seats in advance comes at a price – 120 baht. Still a good deal.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: EU Film Festival, July 10-19, 2015

The annual European Union Film Festival is back for another edition, running this year from July 10 to 19 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, screening 18 entries from 14 countries. Tickets are 120 baht and are on sale now at the box office and through the SF Cinema City website.

Under the theme of “Cinema Live. New Light”, the festival will screen stories about people striving to survive and have better lives, as well as present the cultural richness and diversity of the EU through recent award-winning films.

Highlights include Trespassing Bergman, a documentary about Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman and featuring many famous directors, the German World War II drama Phoenix, Girlhood, a French coming-of-age drama about a black teenager, '71, about "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland, the award-winning Spanish romance Beautiful Youth, the Danish crime drama Northwest and Mr. Hublot, an Oscar-winning animated short from Luxembourg. There will also be a selection paying tribute to Manoel de Oliveira, the Portuguese director who died this past April at age 106.

In addition to Bangkok, the festival will bring selections to SFX Maya Chiang Mai from July 24 to August 8 (where tickets are 80 baht) and at SF Cinema City, CentralPlaza Khon Kaen from August 7 to 9 (queue up for free tickets 30 minutes before the shows). It should go without saying but I'll say it anyway – films will have English and Thai subtitles.

Here's the line-up:

  • Melody (Belgium) – Bernard Bellefroid directs this drama about a young woman (Lucie Debay) who wants to open her own hairdressing salon. To achieve this, she agrees to be a surrogate mother for an Englishwoman (Rachael Blake). Debay and Blake shared the best actress prize at last year's Montréal World Film Festival, which also awarded Melody the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury-Special Mention.
  • Fair Play (Czech Republic) – In 1980s Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, a talented young sprinter (Judit Bárdos) on the country's Olympics team is chosen for a secret program in which she's given performance-enhancing drugs without her knowledge. She wants off the steroids when she discovers the truth, but there's pressure from the coaches, her peers and from her mother to continue using them. Andrea Sedlácková directs. Fair Play was a nominee for the Audience Choice Award at last year's Chicago International Film Festival.
  • Northwest (Denmark) – An 18-year-old street hood gets a leg up in the criminal underworld when he goes to work for a rival kingpin. Michael Noer directs this action-drama, which was nominated for three of Denmark's Bodil Awards and won best supporting actor. It was also an Audience Choice nominee in Chicago.
  • The Hour of the Lynx (Denmark) – A priest is called in to counsel an inmate at a high-security facility for the criminally insane, who attempted suicide while rambling about God. Søren Kragh-Jacobsen directs. Sofie Gråbøl was a Bodil Awards best-actress nominee for her role as the priest.
  • Concrete Night (Finland) – In the cramped slums of Helsinki, one young man prepares to go to prison as his younger brother contemplates following his sibling into a life of crime. Directed by Pirjo Honkasalo, Concrete Night won Best Film and six other prizes at Finland's Jussi Awards and the Spotlight Award of American Society of Cinematographers.
  • Girlhood (France) – A 16-year-old girl with few other prospects in life joins an all-female street gang, where she at first experiences the rush of newfound confidence. Céline Sciamma (Tomboy, Water Lilies) directs. Girlhood won prizes at festivals in Philadelphia and Stockholm and was nominated for the Queer Palm at last year's Cannes Film Festival, in addition to several prizes at France's César Awards.
  • Beloved Sisters (Germany) – The aristocratic Von Lengefeld sisters compete for the affections of hotheaded writer-philosopher Friedrich Schiller against the backdrop of social and political upheavals in France. Dominik Graf directs. Beloved Sisters won for best cinematography at last year's Bavarian Film Awards.
  • Phoenix (Germany) – A woman who was disfigured in a concentration camp and is unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, searches through ravaged postwar Berlin for her estranged husband, who she thinks might have betrayed her to the Nazis. Nina Hoss, Nina Kunzendorf and Ronald Zehrfeld star. Christian Petzold (Jerichow, Barbara) directs. A nominee at the German Film Awards, Phoenix has won at festivals in Hong Kong, Lisbon, San Sebastián and Seattle.
  • Heavenly Shift (Hungary) – In Budapest, a young refugee from the Balkan War joins an ambulance crew and inadvertently becomes involved in the funeral business. Márk Bodzsár directs this comedy-drama, which was nominated for the Orbit Prize at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film and won the Director's Week Award at Fantasporto. 2014
  • Dead Man Talking (Luxembourg) – William Lamers, a 40-year-old death row convict, has a few last words on the day of his execution. No one else is around to hear them, except for the lone journalist from the local newspaper. Patrick Ridremont stars as Lamers and directs. This comedy-drama was a best foreign film nominee at France's César Awards and was a major nominee at the Magritte Awards in Belgium, where it won for production design.
  • Mr. Hublot (Luxembourg) – In a world where characters form parts for gigantic vehicles, Mr. Hublot becomes fearful and decides to not set foot outside his apartment. His solitude is shattered by the arrival of a robot dog. Directed by Alexandre Espigares and Laurent Witz, Mr. Hublot won last year's Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
  • Borgman (Netherlands) – A homeless vagrant gradually infiltrates his way into the sealed-off surburban home of a well-off family. Alex Van Warmerdam directs this off-beat thriller, which was a nominee for the Palme d' Or at Cannes in 2013 and won prizes at many other festivals.
  • Gebo and the Shadow (Portugal) – Part of a special tribute to Manoel de Oliveira, this 2012 entry was the centenarian filmmaker's final feature. It's based on a stage play and follows an elderly accountant who seems to be hiding something from his wife and daughter-in-law regarding the absence of his son. Michael Lonsdale, Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau and Leonor Silveira star. Screened at the Venice film fest, it was a major nominee for Portugal's Golden Globes.
  • The Old Man of Belem (Portugal) – Manoel de Oliveira continued making films well past his 100th birthday. From last year, this short film has Don Quixote, Luís de Camões, Camilo Castelo Branco and Teixeira de Pascoaes having a chat in a garden in the middle of a modern city
  • The Japanese Dog (Romania) – A flash flood hits a village, leaving an elderly man widowed and destitute. He's determined to rebuild, but has to deal with his estranged son, who has turned up after years away in Japan with a wife and son. They want to take dad back to Tokyo with them, but there are unresolved issues. Tudor Cristian Jurgiu directs, making his feature debut. The Japanese Dog was Romania's submission to the Oscars last year.
  • Beautiful Youth (Spain) – A struggling young twentysomething couple, who still live with their parents, turn to making pornography after the woman discovers she is pregnant. Directed by Jaime Rosales, Beautiful Youth was selected for the Un Certain Regard competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival and won the Special Mention Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes Film Festival 2014.
  • Trespassing Bergman (Sweden) – Famous film figures, including Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Michael Haneke, Robert De Niro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Takeshi Kitano, Francis Ford Coppola and Claire Denis, visit the remote Faro Island home of director Ingmar Bergman, and reflect on the legacy of the Swedish auteur and his films.
  • '71 (United Kingdom) – Here's the hot ticket. This much acclaimed military drama is set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and follows a young British soldier as he is accidentally abandoned by his unit during a riot in Belfast. Somehow, he must survive the night and find his way to safety. Jack O'Connell stars and Yann Demange directs, making his feature debut. This was a major nominee at the 2014 British Independent Film Awards, where it won Best Director. It also won the Bafta Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

For more details, check Facebook or the SF Cinema City website.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 25-July 1, 2015


Arnold Schwarzenegger is earning terrific reviews for his comeback-career dramatic turn in Maggie, a slow-burn indie zombie thriller about a father who refuses to let his infected daughter go.

Talented young Abigail Breslin (Zombieland, August: Osage County) is the daughter. She has been infected and quarantined following a mysterious illness that has society on edge.

It's the feature directorial debut of Henry Hobson, a young filmmaker who previously created the title credits for several movies, including August: Osage County, The Lone Ranger and Snow White and the Huntsman.

Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being that the performances by Schwarzenegger and Breslin lift an otherwise clunky drama. It also serves as a warm-up for the next week's big tentpole, Terminator Genesys, which has Arnie returning once again to one of his most iconic roles. Rated 13+

Also opening

The Duff – Teenage perceptions about body image are addressed in this high-school comedy about a girl who learns she's been designated her clique's "D.U.F.F." – designated ugly fat friend – even though she is neither fat nor ugly. Mae Whitman (Arrested Development, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) stars, along with Robbie Amell and Bella Thorne. The director is Ari Sandel, who makes his feature dramatic debut after previously working in television and on Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at SF cinemas. Rated 15+

Barely Lethal – Along with Maggie and The Duff, this action comedy could well complete a triple feature this week of movies spotlighting teenage female characters. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Pitch Perfect 2) stars as a student at a secret all-girls boarding school for assassins. Yearning for a normal life, she gives her minders the slip and then poses as an exchange student at a public high school, where she finds life even more challenging than black-ops missions. Jessica Alba and Samuel L. Jackson also star. Kyle Newman, who previously did the Star Wars homage Fanboys, directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

It Follows – After a sexual encounter with a stranger, a carefree young woman can't shake the feeling that she's being followed. David Robert Mitchell, yet another Hollywood rookie, directs. Maika Monroe, a former professional kiteboarder who's turned to acting, stars. Critical reception for this indie thriller is crazily positive. It moves to a regular release following two weeks of nighttime sneak previews. Rated 15+

Steak (R)evolution – Tapping into the trendy "foodie" movement, this follows carnivorous gourmets as they trek the world, looking for the best steak. France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, the UK, the US, Canada, Japan, Argentina and Brazil are visited, chatting up ranchers, butchers, chefs, historians and meat-eaters along they way. Rated G.

Lovesucks (รักอักเสบ) – A sports news anchor (Teya Rogers) is hit with a double whammy when she’s demoted from her job and then discovers her boyfriend (footballer Teerathep Vinothai) has been cheating on her. She then embarks on a one-night stand with another guy (James Maggie). Actress "Donut" Manasnan Panlertwongskul makes her directorial debut with this romantic comedy, which is produced by TrueVisions Original Pictures. At SF cinemas. Rated 13+

Tomb Robber – An ancient tomb is discovered in a remote valley and rumors start circulating that it may be the site of long-lost treasure. This is a Chinese 3D thriller but it seems to be showing only in 2D here. At Major Cineplex; Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, a fast-talking TV journalist (Dustin Hoffman) acts as an intermediary in a hostage situation involving a disgruntled former security guard (John Travolta) in Mad City, a 1998 drama by Costa-Gravas. Tomorrow, it's one last Peter Sellers film for the month, with an early acclaimed performance in 1959's I'm All Right Jack. Saturday's food-themed movie is the bizarre Eating Raoul while Spielberg Sunday is devoted to Schindler's List. 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.

A Child Outside: Retrospective to John Torres – Filmvirus and the Reading Room, with support from the Japan Foundation, bring leading Filipino indie filmmaker John Torres to Bangkok for a two-day retrospective of all his films. Saturday's program will be a selection of short films made from 2004 to 2011. There will also be two self-confessional autobiographical features, Todo Todo Teros, which blended found footage and home-video clips, and won several awards, and Years When I was a Child Outside, which won an award at the Bangkok International Film Festival in 2008. Sunday's line-up has Torres' two dramatic features, 2010’s Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song, about a young woman who takes on different roles as she travels from village to village. There's also 2013’s Lukas the Strange, a coming-of-age yarn about an awkward teenager coming to grips with his manhood just as a film crew comes to his village. And Torres himself will close off the event with a talk. Shows start at 1pm. The venue is a fourth-floor walk-up in a shophouse on Silom Soi 19, opposite Silom Center. Recent Filmvirus events there have been packed to the rafters, so be sure to arrive early to ensure you'll have a seat. For further details, check the Facebook events page.

Alliance Française – In Grand Central, a young drifter (Tahar Rahim) finds work scrubbing reactors at a nuclear power plant. As if the health risks from radioactivity weren't enough, he begins an affair with the wife of a co-worker. Léa Seydoux, Olivier Gourmet, Denis Ménochet, Johan Libéreau also star. Rebecca Zlotowski directs this award-winning romantic comedy-drama. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 1, at the Alliance.