Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 30-August 5, 2015

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Tom Cruise says he was "scared s–less" doing his stunts in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, his latest desperate, bravura effort to keep himself and the over-punctuated Mission: Impossible franchise relevant.

Hanging for dear life off an ascending military cargo plane and racing around on motorcycles, Cruise is back for the fifth installment in the hit movie series, which is based on a 1960s TV show. Following the adventures of Ghost Protocol, Cruise's Ethan Hunt and his IMF team have been disbanded and scattered to the wind. But a new threat emerges in the form of the Syndicate, a shadowy organization that is using IMF's old technology and assets in an escalating series of terrorist attacks. To stop them, Hunt and his team have to put their trust in a disavowed British spy (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson).

Along with Cruise, other returnees from previous M:I installments include Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner. Alec Baldwin joins this time around.

The director is Christopher McQuarrie, the writer of Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects, who has become a go-to guy for Cruise since directing him in Jack Reacher and having a hand in scripting such Cruise vehicles as Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow.

Critical reception is mostly positive, with the consensus being that Cruise and company are a well-oiled machine that deliver the goods as expected. It's in 2D only, including IMAX cinemas. Rated 13+

Also opening

The Road Within – After his mother dies, a young man (Robert Sheehan) who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome is packed off by his father to a clinic. There, the sweary guy falls for an anorexic woman (Zoe Kravitz, who shrunk down to 90 pounds for the role). He decides to take her on a trip to deliver his mother’s ashes to the ocean, bringing his obsessive-compulsive roommate (Dev Patel) along for the ride. Robert Patrick and Kyra Sedgwick also star. An independent drama that has won awards at several film festivals, The Road Within is directed by Gren Wells. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Love Hiao Fiao Tott (เลิฟเฮี้ยวเฟี้ยวต๊อด, a.k.a. There’s Something About Tott) – Anon “Poj” Mingkhwanta directs this romantic comedy about a hapless young man (Khunathip Pinpradab) whose overwhelming charm attracts many ladies, making it difficult for him to hold down a job and earn the money he needs to get his beloved grandmother (Duangta Tungkhamanee) out of the nursing home. Rated 15+

Last Knights – A disgraced knight seeks revenge and the restoration of his honor as he leads a rebellion against the ruthless emperor. Clive Owen stars as the sword-wielding hero, with Morgan Freeman as his master. Aksel Hennie is the sneering baddie. This seems to be an adaptation of Japan's historical 47 Ronin tale, but with European-style knights with broadswords instead of samurai. The director is Japan's Kazuaki Kiriya, making his English-language debut. He previously directed the special-effects-laden epics Casshern and Goemon. Critical reception has landed with a dull thud. It's at SF cinemas. Rated 15+

Drishyam – A middle-class man who runs a village cable-TV network in Goa, and his family, have their happy life turned upside down when they become suspects in the disappearance of the teenage son of a police officer. With Ajay Devgn, Shriya Saran, Tabu and Rajat Kapoor. In Hindi with English subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Central Rama III and Pattaya. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – "A unique exploration of the nadir of taste, sophistication and film technique." Now that's an accurate description of tonight's cult-classic entry, John Waters' Pink Flamingos. Tomorrow's "precocious girl" is British ingenue Jane March in 1992's The Lover, a steamy adaptation of a Marguerite Duras romance novel and starring Tony Leung Ka Fai as "the Chinese man". And that's all I have so far. For the August schedule, keep an eye on the club's Facebook page. Shows start at 8pm.

Alliance Française – In Une place sur la Terre (A Place on Earth), a lonely photographer (Benoît Poelvoorde) finds himself drawn to a mysterious piano-playing neighbor lady in this 2013 drama by Fabienne Godet. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, August 5, at the Alliance.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 23-29, 2015

Red Wine in the Dark Night

Along with How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), released here last week, and next month's release of The Blue Hour, fans of Thai queer arthouse cinema have been anticipating Red Wine in the Dark Night, the latest from talented writer-director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, who previously surveyed transgender culture in the award-winning It Gets Better (ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั, Mai Dai Kor Hai Ma Rak).

Following the successful string of indie gay romances that have been getting limited releases in Bangkok cinemas, Khuen Nan Red Wine in the Dark Night (คืนนั้น Red Wine in the Dark Night), is getting a wide release from Thanadbuntueng Production, Artfo Production and Tanwarin's own Am Fine Production.

There's an intriguing vampire vibe with the plot about an innocent soul named Wine (Pongsatorn "Fluke" Sripinta from My Bromance) who encounters a blood-sucking amnesiac he names Night. He's played by Steven Isarapong Fuller, who previously appeared in Tanwarin's mainstream ghost romance Threesome.

Other stars include Krittachapon Thananara, (It Gets Better, Hug Na Sarakham, Teacher and Student), Nontapat Intarasuan (Feel Good) and Sutthinat Uengtrakul (Love’s Coming).

"I would like to make this film simply to remind all of us that love can really make us blind. Love is definitely a beautiful thing, on the other side, love creates obsession and makes us do whatever it takes to make a person love us and be with us as long as possible.  I believe love requires lots of thoughts to make it really work," says Tanwarin in a director's statement issued ahead the movie's release.

Rated 18+

Also opening

Southpaw – Movie-awards season is months away, but already Jake Gyllenhaal is getting Oscar buzz for his transformative performance in this boxing drama. He's a former champ who loses everything – his title, his wife and daughter, his suburban home, his manager, etc. It seems hopeless until he meets a retired boxer (Forest Whitaker) who agrees to become his trainer and support his comeback bid. It's directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) and written by Kurt Sutter, best known for his work on the gritty TV series The Shield and Sons of Anarchy. Rachel McAdams and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson also star. Most of the attention on Southpaw is focused on Gyllenhaal being practically unrecognizable after he bulked up for the role and trained for months as a boxer, following his dramatic weight loss for the very creepy Nightcrawler. But apart from that, Southpaw appears to be very much in the realm of standard Hollywood boxing pictures, and critical reception is only evenly mixed. Rated 13+

Ted 2 – Writer-director Seth MacFarlane again voices a foul-mouthed teddy bear in this sequel to the 2012 broad-comedy hit about a guy (Mark Wahlberg) who is "thunder buddies" with his magically transformed stuffed animal. In this sequel, Ted has gotten married to a (human) co-worker (Jessica Barth) and the two want to have children. When sperm-donation plans go comically awry, the two plan to adopt, but the state says parents need to be human and they rule Ted is not a person but property. So a recently graduated law student (Amanda Seyfried) is recruited to take on what becomes a major civil-rights case. Critical reception is evenly mixed. Rated 18+

Poltergeist – Tobe Hooper's classic 1982 thriller about family who move into a home built on an old cemetery that is haunted by evil spirits still holds up. But Hollywood is a relentless machine that must remake and ruin everything to keep the gears greased. And so it goes. But hey, at least the talented actor Sam Rockwell is getting a paycheck, so maybe he'll do something better next. The only difference between this and the original is the family now has a flat-screen TV. There's also some special-effects and scares ramped up to appeal to the current generation of fans of movies like Saw and The Conjuring. Yuck. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to the negative side. Rated 13+

Latitude 6 (ละติจูดที่ 6) – Restive southern Thailand is the backdrop for this propaganda film by the Internal Security Operations Command and UCI Media. A romantic drama, its aim is to "promote better understanding". There are various stories of cultural and religious conflict, mainly having to do with actor-musician Peter Corp Dyrendal, who portrays a Bangkok banker assigned to Pattani. There, he is charmed by the laid-back southern lifestyle. He falls for a young Muslim woman and hopes to prove he is worthy to the girl's strict father. Though the Army means well (and doesn't it always?), the film's release is poorly timed, with the motorcycle-enthusiast actor embroiled in social-media-fueled controversies over affairs and failures to turn up to work on TV shows. Rated G

Mon Love Sib Muen (มนต์เลิฟสิบหมื่น) – Just like Hollywood, the mainstream Thai movie industry isn't terribly inventive, and when one studio has a big box-office hit, the others follow it with something that looks similar, in hopes it will also catch on. The latest attempt is a reworking of the 1970 classic Monrak Luk Thung, which starred the legendary screen duo of Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat, and was a massive hit in its day, remaining in theaters for something like six months. There were (and still are) tons of other rural Thai musical romantic comedy-dramas, but none caught on like Monrak Luk Thung. Pariphan “Toh Phantamitr” Vachiranon, a member of the Phantamitr film-dubbing team, directs this new version, which is tarted up with CGI kickboxing roosters and hipster comedians. Chaiyapol Julien Poupart (Threesome, Jan Dara, The Scar) stars as a country boy who is hopelessly in love with a local lass, but can't marry her until he raises a lavish dowry. Rated 15+

Empire of Lust – This historical epic from South Korea is set sometime during the early Joseon Dynasty, and involves a prince who has been passed over as heir to the throne. Meanwhile, a battlefield hero falls for a courtesan who has a hidden agenda. Fans seem to think this one's okay. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The club is having a private event tonight, but is back open tomorrow with another "precocious girl", this time Mischa Barton in the terrific Lawn Dogs, in which a 10-year-old girl from a gated community goes against the wishes of her social-climbing parents and befriends the local yokel who mows lawns in the neighborhood. Hey, it's Sam Rockwell, who can be seen cashing a paycheck in the Poltergeist remake. Saturday has the original "bad kid" movie, 1956's The Bad Seed, in which a perfect pig-tailed little girl seems to be a murderer. Sunday's "imaginary friend" movie is The Machinist, which had Christian Bale dropping half his body weight to portray an industrial worker who is losing his mind over his inability to sleep. Next Wednesday is one more Canadian comedy, the Academy Award-winning hit teen pregnancy comedy Juno. 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.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – With the earthquakes in Nepal on the minds of the region's newshounds, the FCCT hosts a screening on Monday of Kathmandu, a Mirror in the Sky (Katmandú, un espejo en el cielo), a fact-based 2011 Spanish drama about an idealistic young schoolteacher who volunteers in Kathmandu and devotes herself to helping the street kids. She faces difficulties due to cultural and caste differences, bureaucracy and corruption. The film is based on the life of Victoria Subirana, founder of the EduQual Foundation, who will fly to Bangkok to appear at the screening and talk after the movie. The show is at 7pm on Monday, July 27. Admission for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the tapas and wine laid on by the Spanish embassy.

Alliance FrançaiseSuzanne, the second feature from director Katell Quillévéré, chronicles the life and affairs of a young woman, who becomes a teen mother and then later courts trouble when she falls for a gangster. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 29, at the Alliance.

Take note

Apologies for omitting word last week of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre's Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series, which had Concrete Clouds director and well-known film editor Lee Chatametikool screening Filipino director Raya Martin's How to Disappear Completely and then discussing it last Saturday. Although I had noted it here a couple of weeks ago, last week I had the dates confused in my mind. But there's no excuse. I have been terrible about keeping up with the BACC's movie events, and I'll try to do better. If anybody involved with the series is reading this and can assist in "promoting better understanding", please give a shout.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 16-22, 2015

P’chai My Hero

A much-needed fresh perspective in Thai cinema emerges in the indie drama P'Chai My Hero (พี่ชาย My Hero), which is adapted from the short stories of noted Thai-American writer Rattawut Lapcharoensap and directed by Korean-American Josh Kim. Combining two stories from Rattawut's Sightseeing collection, P'Chai My Hero is known internationally as How to Win at Checkers (Every Time).

The story centers on the tender relationship between two brothers, insecure 11-year-old Oat and his masculine but openly gay older brother Ek. Orphaned at a early age, the boys live with their superstitious aunt and her pest of a younger daughter. It's a warm-hearted yet bittersweet coming-of-age tale, as Oat looks for ways to help Ek stay out of the army as the annual military draft lottery approaches. Oat also wants desperately to beat Ek at checkers, so that Ek will finally take him for a night out in Bangkok.

Not only is this Thai film cobbled together from the English literature of a Thai-American writer by a Korean-American director (he previously did a short documentary called Draft Day, on transgender folk taking part in Thailand's unique military conscription drawing), the producers hail from all over – Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and the US. They are Edward Gunawan, Chris Lee, Andrew Thomas Tiernan and Anocha Suwichakornpong. This could well signal a direction to follow in the Asean Economic Community, as Southeast Asia's filmmakers look for ways tell stories that resonate with home audiences as well as those abroad.

How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, and also had a screening at the inaugural Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Critical reception has been highly positive – this is one of the best Thai films of the year so far. Don't miss it. It's at Apex, Esplanade Ratchada, House, Major Ratchayothin, Paragon and Chiang Mai Airport Plaza. Rated 18+


The Marvel Cinematic Universe takes a comedic turn with Ant-Man, a super-sized superhero who has the ability to be as small as an ant or as big as a skyscraper. A brilliant scientist, he's actually one of the founding members of The Avengers superhero team.

Paul Rudd stars as a small-time thief who is tasked by scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) with recovering his stolen super-suit, which gives the wearer the ability to shrink in size with a corresponding increase in strength. Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly also star.

This project was originated by cult British director Edgar Wright, who was set to direct. But, when the far-out ideas of Wright and his writing partner Joe Cornish clashed with the lockstep world-dominating plans of Marvel Comics executives, he left the project and Adam McKay (Anchorman) was brought in to rewrite the script, along with Rudd. Peyton Reed (Bring It On, The Break-Up) directs.

Critical reception is generally positive. Like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, this will have references to other Marvel movies, so keep your seat during closing credits if you don't want to miss out. It's in 2D in converted 3D (including IMAX). Rated G

Also opening

Kidnapping Freddy Heinenken – Anthony Hopkins stars as the heir to a Dutch beer empire in this fact-based crime drama about a 1983 kidnapping that resulted in the biggest ransom ever paid. But, the strain of the caper tested the friendships of the perpetrators. Sam Worthington, Jim Sturgess and Ryan Kwanten also star. It's directed by Daniel Alfredson, a Swede who previously did two sequels in the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies and is the older brother of Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Bajrangi Bhaijaan – A five-year-old speech-impaired Pakistani girl gets lost at a railway station in India, and finds shelter in the colorful community of a Hindu man (Salman Khan), who takes it upon himself to reunite the mute girl with her family. Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Om Puri also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

European Union Film Festival – Still plenty to see as the long-running annual EU fest rolls into its final weekend at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Tonight, it's Beloved Sisters, a historical drama from Germany. Tomorrow is the Dutch thriller Borgman, in which a street person worms his way into the lives of an upper-class family. Saturday has the darkly comic Heavenly Shift, about a Budapest ambulance worker, the Belgian surrogate pregnancy drama Melody and the highly acclaimed '71, about a British soldier stranded alone in Troubles-wracked Belfast. And Sunday has the Romanian family drama The Japanese Dog and two from the late Portuguese auteur Manoel de Oliveira, Gebo and the Shadow and The Old Man of Belem. The EU fest next moves to SFX Maya Chiang Mai from July 24 to August 8 and then to SF Cinema City in Khon Kaen from August 7 to 9. For details, check my earlier post, the SF cinemas website or the EU's Facebook.

The Friese-Greene Club – A controversial flop when it was originally released, director Tod Browning's 1932 sideshow drama Freaks found its audience on the midnight-movies circuit in the 1970s. Screening tonight, it is now a cult classic. Tomorrow night's "precocious girl" is once again Natalie Portman, who followed up her role in 1994's Leon with 1996's Beautiful Girls, which has a bunch of adults at a crossroads during a high-school reunion. Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon and Noah Emmerich also star. Saturday's "bad kid" is Jodie Foster, in the rare and underrated 1976 thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Martin Sheen also stars. The first rule about Sunday's film: You do not talk about Sunday's film. The second rule about Sunday's film: You do not talk about Sunday's film. And next Wednesday, it's the classic Canadian summer camp comedy Meatballs, which featured Bill Murray in his first film role. 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.

According to Marguerite Duras Project – The ongoing Marguerite Duras series continues on Tuesday and Wednesday at Thong Lor Art Space with 1969's Détruire dit-elle (Destroy, She Said), in which a depressed man meets a mysterious woman who might be involved in kidnapping women sold into prostitution. It will be followed on July 28 and 29 by 1959's Hiroshima Mon Amour, directed by Alain Resnais. All will have English and Thai subtitles. In addition to the films, which are free, the project is also staging a play, An Epilogue to the Malady of Death, which is on at 7.30pm on Thursday and Friday and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday until August 1. For details, check the Thong Lor Art Space Facebook page or the Facebook events page.

Alliance Française – In Au Galop (In a Rush), a young single mother is about to get married when she meets another guy, a single dad with an overbearing mother. Louis-Do de Lencquesaing directs and stars in this comedy-drama, which also stars Marthe Keller. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 22, at the Alliance.