Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 18-24, 2014

Pawang Rak (Concrete Clouds)


Finally, Concrete Clouds (ภวังค์รัก, Pawang Rak, literally "subconscious love"), the directorial-debut feature of award-winning film editor Lee Chatametikool, is making its theatrical bow in Thailand. Following a tour of the festival circuit for the past year or so, the 1990s-set drama opens this week in select cinemas.

Here's the synopsis:

In 1997, Mutt (Ananda Everingham), who works as a currency trader in New York, must suddenly return home to Bangkok when his father commits suicide. After the funeral, he decides to track down Sai (Janesuda Parnto), his old girlfriend from high school. Meanwhile his younger brother Nic (Prawith Hansten) is in love with Poupee (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk), who lives in a low-income flat behind their townhouse. While the economic crisis looms over the city, both relationships face uncertainty. As they drift between the past and the present, between dreams and reality, their only escape is in a collage of love songs, music videos and recorded memories. But can these alone hold their relationships together in the face of harsh realities?

It's a stuttering, shattered reflection on the 1997 financial crisis by Lee, who returned to Bangkok that year after being schooled overseas. Over the years since, he's gone on to be a major figure in the Thai film industry, helping to shape such films as Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cannes prize-winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History, as well as various mainstream Thai films.

Apichatpong and Anocha are now repaying him, serving as producers on his feature directorial debut, which has been in the works for the past four years or so. Other producers are veteran Thai independent film hand Soros Sukhum and Taiwanese actress-director Sylvia Chang. It's been supported along the way by various film funds and project markets, including Visions Sud East from Switzerland, the Busan film fest's Asian Cinema Fund and the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Festival appearances have included Rotterdam, Busan and Hong Kong.

To get yourself in the mood, check out the official trailer or, even better, get your pulse racing with the teaser, featuring a song by the 1990s band Pause.

Concrete Clouds is at SF cinemas and House on RCA. Rated 18+



Also opening



The Maze Runner – Yet another young-adult novel series comes to the big screen in this post-apocalyptic adventure yarn about teens trapped in a massive maze, with huge fortress-like walls that move. It's inhabited by vicious creatures called Grievers. Runners go in and never come back. Seemingly, there is no way out. James Dashner wrote the the trilogy, and the young cast includes Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter. Wes Ball, making his debut, directs. This is just coming out in the U.S. this week, so keep your eye on the reviews. Rated G


Are You Here – Matthew Weiner, creator of the acclaimed TV drama Mad Men, teams up with leading comedy lights Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler for this road comedy about longtime friends taking a trip back to their rural hometown after one of them (Galifianakis) learns of his inheritance. Unfortunately, in spite the efforts of all these fantastic talents, critical reception is negative. Rated 18+


As Above, So Below – A camera crew goes exploring the legendary catacombs below the streets of Paris and discovers a maze-like city of the dead that harbors terrifying secrets. Oh no. Yes. It's another "found footage" horror movie. John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil) directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 13+


Rak Phasa Arai (รักภาษาอะไร, Myanmar in Love in Bangkok) – Cross-cultural differences and connections are explored in this romance about a young Burmese man (Aung Nay Zoe) who gets into a relationship with a hipster Thai woman who works as a tattoo artist. At Major Cineplex. Rated 15+


Once Upon a Time in Shanghai – The 1972 Shaw Brothers martial-arts action drama The Boxer from Shantung gets the remake treatment. It's the same, old story – a young hick (Phillip Ng) travels to the big city to seek a livelihood and is taken under the wing of a young rising crime lord (Andy On). They run into conflict with the rival Axe Gang. Action-film great Sammo Hung also stars. Wong Ching-po directs. It's Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+


Daawat-e-Ishq – Parineeti Chopra and Aditya Roy Kapur star in this food-infused Bollywood romance. She's a Hyderabadi shoe-sales girl disillusioned with love because of her encounters with dowry-seeking men, while he's a Lucknawi cook who can charm anybody with the aroma and flavors of his biryani and kebabs. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at the Embassy Diplomat Screens, Major Cineplex Ekkamai, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.


Khoobsurat – Bollywood and Disney combine for a star-crossed storybook romance. Sonam Kappoor is a hopelessly romantic physiotherapist who is bowled over by a handsome young Rajput prince (Fawad Afzal Khan), despite cultural differences and the fact that he's engaged to someone else. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Opens Friday (and on September 26 in Pattaya).



Also showing


The Friese-Greene Club – Stunning martial-arts action is on display tonight in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, yet another display of diversity by director Ang Lee. Tomorrow, funny things happen to Yanks in England in John Landis' hilariously scary American Werewolf in London – with still one of the best werewolf transformation scenes ever. This Saturday's "so bad it's good entry" is The Blue Lagoon, a film that seemed "erotic" back in 1980 but now not so much. Sunday, Lauren Bacall teams up with John Wayne to battle commies in China in 1955's Blood Alley. And next Wednesday closes out a month-long tribute to Robin Williams with the dream-like drama Awakenings, one of Penny Marshall's best-regarded directorial efforts. 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.


Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice – In the closing entry of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center's film series this year, Thai director Tanawarin Sukkhapisit will present the Japanese teen drama Himizu, directed by Sion Sono. "For me, Himizu does not just tell an anguished story of a post-tsunami Japan. Instead, when I watched it, I felt like I was literally hit by a tsunami, a force of nature that was so powerful that it dragged me to the bottom of the ocean where I could not breath and felt like I was about to die," says Tanwarin, director of a diverse range of short films and features, including Threesome, It Gets Better and Insects in the Backyard. Screening on Saturday in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium, registration opens at 4.30 and the show is at 5.30, with a talk afterward. Subtitles are in Thai only – no English.


The Lives of Others – The Filmvirus series of biographical double-bills comes to a close this Sunday at Thammasat University Tha Prachan. Up first at 12.30 is My Life and Times with Antonin Artaud, a 1993 French film based on the novel by Jacques Prevel, who recounts his friendship with the mentally disturbed playwright. That's followed at 2.10 by Room and a Half, about Russian poet Josef Brodsky. The show starts at 12.30 on Sunday in the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University Tha Prachan, in the Rewat Buddhinan Room, floor U2, the basement. Dress appropriately and inform the desk worker you are there to see a movie. For details, call (02) 613-3529 or (02) 613-3530.


Alliance Française – "Novels on the big screen" is September's theme for the free French films. Next week's show is Du vent dans mes mollets (The Dandelions), based on Raphaële Moussafir's novel about a shy 9-year-old girl whose life changes when she gets an adventurous new friend. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, September 24.



Sneak preview



The Purge: Anarchy – Here we go again. In a dystopian near future, when, for one night a year, all law enforcement and emergency services in the U.S. are suspended and virtually all crimes are made legal, a small group of law-abiding citizens prepare for the worst. Frank Grillo, Michael K. Williams and Carmen Ejogo star. James DeMonaco directs. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly at most cinemas until next Thursday's wide release. Rated 18+



Take note

The World Film Festival of Bangkok is coming up, running from October 17 to 26. But before that, on September 27, is another Filmvirus event at the Reading Room. It's a comprehensive look at the short films of Chulayarnnon Siriphol, who won a runner-up prize at the recent Thai Short Film and Video Festival for Myth of Modernity.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 11-17, 2014

Mother


Director Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul blends documentary and drama in this unflinchingly personal look at his family in Mother.

The story is set during the 1997 economic crisis, with a young man's mother attempting suicide. Left severely disabled, the mentally troubled woman is left in care of her family, a job that takes its toll on all involved.

Since premiering at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2012, Mother has made its way around the festival circuit, screeing in London and Jakarta's Chopshots, and in competition in Torino. It screened at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok, where I reviewed it.

It's now in limited release at House on RCA.



Also opening




Sex Tape – Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star in this raunchy comedy about a couple who film their epic lovemaking session in hopes of spicing up their 10-year-old marriage. Trouble arises when the recording automatically uploads itself to "the cloud" and is shared with all the couple's family and friends. Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher, Walk Hard) directs. Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe and Nat Faxon also star. Critics aren't turned on. Rated 18+


+1 (Plus One) – A mysterious phenomenon disrupts a big college party and makes twins of all in attendance. Rhys Wakefield, Logan Miller, Ashley Hinshaw and Natalie Hall star. Dennis Iliadis (The Last House on the Left) directs this indie horror for IFC Films. Critical reception, though somewhat thin, is mixed leaning to favorable. Rated 18+


Kite – A cult-hit 1998 direct-to-video Japanese animated feature gets the live-action remake treament from Hollywood in this story of an orphan girl trained as an assassin. She's assigned to infiltrate and dismantle a prostitution ring. India Eisley stars, along with Samuel L. Jackson and Callan McAuliffe. It's adapted from a 1998 anime by Yasuomi Umetsu (Akira, Grave of the Fireflies). Ralph Ziman (Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema) directs. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 18+


Namman Phrai (น้ำมันพราย, Spell) – Veteran director Dulyasit Niyomkul returns with this supernatural horror about a young woman (Vanida "Gybzy" Termtanaporn), who becomes possessed by the spirit of a pregnant women after her childhood friend Lek (Pramote Tianchaikerdsilp) uses a love potion made from burning a dead pregnant woman's chin. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated 18+


Sming – The hunter's killing of a tiger cub is the beginning of a quest for vengeance by the cub's mother, a supernaturally endowed tiger, and the hunter, who seeks revenge for his wife's death. Narin Visitsak directs. Rated 15+


Kru Lae Nakrian (ครูและนักเรียน, Teacher and Student) – After five years together, Ton and his boyfriend Al are on the verge of splitting up. Al tries to get the romance back on track but Ton has fallen in love his student Joe. Sarawut Intaraprom directs. At Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada and Major Cineplex Ratchayothin. No English subtitles. Rated 18+


The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom – Fan Bingbing stars in this sweeping saga of star-crossed romance and palace intrigue from the martial-arts-fantasy novel of Liang Yusheng. She is an outlaw who falls for a righteous Taoist leader (Huang Xiaoming). Jacob Cheung directs. At SF cinemas, with original soundtrack and Thai and probably English subtitles at CentralWorld, Terminal 21 and Emporium. Rated 13+


Finding Fanny – An elderly postman in Goa finds a letter he wrote 46 years ago, asking for a woman's hand in marriage, but was never delivered. So he sets off on a road trip to find his lost love, and is joined along the way by four colourful characters from the village. Naseeruddin Shah, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia star. English with Thai subtitles at Paragon and Esplanade Ratchada and in English-Hindi with Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.



Also showing



The Friese-Greene Club – Taboo romance develops tonight between a pair of guys working on a Wyoming sheep ranch in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain. Tomorrow, Alec Guinness is a fussy bank clerk who decides he wants more of life in the classic Ealing comedy The Lavender Hill Mob. Saturday's "so bad it's good" entry is the cult favorite bomb The Room. Sunday is Key Largo, the fourth and final film pairing of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. Next Wednesday, it's Robin Williams in his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting. 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.


The Lives of Others – The Filmvirus series of biographical double-bills continues on Sunday with a pair of autobiographies starring filmmmakers. First up is  Savage Nights (Les nuits fauves), French actor-director Cyril Collard's adaptation of his autobiography. It's the story of a bisexual director who continues his promiscuous ways even after he discovers he has Aids. The film won the Cesar prize as France's best film of 1994, just four days after Collard died. That's followed by Caro Diario, featuring three chapters of an open diary by Italian director Nanni Moretti. The show starts at 12.30 on Sunday in the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University Tha Prachan, in the Rewat Buddhinan Room, floor U2, the basement. Dress appropriately and inform the desk worker you are there to see a movie. For details, call (02) 613-3529 or (02) 613-3530.


Alliance Française – "Novels on the big screen" is September's theme for the free French films. Next week it's Foxfire, based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel of teen rebels in a 1950s small town. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, September 17.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 4-10, 2014

Boyhood


One of the most hotly anticipated and highly acclaimed films of the year, Boyhood is a triumph for director Richard Linklater, who made the coming-of-age drama over 12 years, bringing his cast together for a few weeks at a time to capture various stages of life for a Texas kid named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), from ages 6 to 18.

Patricia Arquette is his divorcée mother and Ethan Hawke is the dad. The director's daughter Lorelei Linklater portrays the older sister.

The director has joked that a sequel could follow Mason through college and then to Europe, where he gets on a train and meets a girl. But then he's already made that movie. It's called Before Sunrise.

Boyhood premiered at this year's Sundance fest and also won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival. Critical reception is universally positive. It opened in sneak previews last week and now moves to more frequent screenings at Apex Siam Square, House on RCA, Paragon and CentralWorld. Rated 13+



Also opening


The November Man – Former Bond Pierce Brosnan suits back up as a spy, producing this thriller in which he's an ex-CIA agent who gets entangled in a political conspiracy. Tasked with protecting a woman (ex-Bond woman Olga Kurylenko from Quantum of Solace) whose secrets threaten the future of old alliances, he's pitted against his former protege (Luke Bracey). It's based on a novel by Bill Granger, a former Chicago newspaperman. Roger Donaldson, who steered Brosnan through the volcano thriller Dante's Peak, directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+


Wer – The werewolf myth is tackled "found footage" style in this story of a defense lawyer (AJ Cook) who learns her new client (Brian Scott O'Connor) is a werewolf. He escapes from jail and goes on the loose in Paris. William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside) directs and Steven Schneider (Paranormal Activity, Insidious) executive produces. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+


Deliver Us from Evil – A New York police officer joins forces with an unconventional priest (Edgar Ramirez) to investigate a strange series of paranormal crimes. It's supposedly a true story. Olivia Munn also stars. Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+.


Fah Gam Toh (ฟ้าแก้มโต) – Comedian Ping Lumpraplerng takes a serious turn in this drama by indie director Parm Rangsri (Pawn Shop, Daddy's Menu). Ping is a veteran singer who has fallen on hard times. He struggles to recapture his stardom, with support from the only person who believes in him, his young daughter. This is among the crop of Thai films making premieres at the upcoming Busan International Film Festival. Rated 15+


Mary Kom – The life story of India's female boxing champion and Olympic bronze medalist is recounted, chronicling her struggles in the male-dominated sport. She's portrayed by former Miss World Priyanka Chopra, a controversial choice given that she is Punjabi. "I don't look like Mary. I don't have the features like her, but I have given blood and soul for this film to make sure I represent Mary's spirit and her personality to the best of my ability," she has said. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon, Major Cinplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.



Also showing

Life on Mars screens tonight and on Saturday at the Thai Short Film and Video Festival.
18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival – The fest continues at 5 today at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center with S-Express Malaysia, a collection of brand-new Malaysian shorts curated by writer-director Amir Muhammad. That's followed at 6.30 by the Queer Programme, which includes the Thai short Life on Mars plus others from Austria, Senegal and Belgium. On Friday, it's S-Express Indonesia, medium-length Thai works in the Digital Forum and International Competition 3. Saturday starts at 11am, with White Elephant student films in competition, Duke Award documentaries and a special program, Archive Ex 2, featuring groundbreaking experimental Thai films, including a 55-minute look at a day in Bangkok's Chinatown, made in 1982. The S-Express programs from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are repeated, as is the Queer Programme. The fest wraps on Sunday with a block of animated shorts in competition – no dialogue, so no subtitle worries. Another highlight is the encore screening of Letters from the South, a look at Chinese people in Southeast Asia by the region's top indie directors. For more details, please see the schedule on the festival's Facebook page.


The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, a young woman is drawn into the spy game in Hong Kong and Shanghai during World War II in Ang Lee's erotic thriller Lust Caution, part of a monthlong look at "the diversity of Ang Lee". Fridays, about "funny things [that] happen in England", start with the booze-soaked comedy Withnail and I. Saturday kicks off a series of "so bad they're good" films with Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls. Sundays are devoted to the late Lauren Bacall with 1947's Dark Passage, co-starring Humphrey Bogart. And Wednesdays are in memory of the dramatic performances of Robin Williams, with Christopher Nolan's Alaskan murder yarn Insomnia. 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.


The Lives of Others – The Filmvirus series of biographical double bills continues on Sunday with  My Way Home, part three of The Bill Douglas Trilogy, recounting the early life of the Scottish filmmaker. That's followed by The Best Intentions. Bille August directs the partly autobiographical screenplay by Ingmar Bergman, who looks at the complex courtship of his parents. It's a condensed version of a four-hour mini-series made for Swedish television. The show starts at 12.30 on Sunday in the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University Tha Prachan, in the Rewat Buddhinan Room, floor U2, the basement. Dress appropriately and inform the desk worker you are there to see a movie. For details, call (02) 613-3529 or (02) 613-3530.



Take note

There is no free French film next Wednesday at the Alliance Française, due to another event being held. Screenings will resume there on September 17.

Along with the Thai Short Film and Video Festival at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, there several other exhibitions that are worth a look while you are there. On the eighth floor is Thai Charisma, which juxtaposes ancient Thai artifacts and Buddhist imagery with contemporary works. It includes some work by the late National Artist Thawan Duchanee, who died on Wednesday at age 74. And the seventh floor is filled with Thai and European video installations.

Meanwhile, the third- fourth- and fifth-floor walkways are cluttered with giant, awkwardly placed lightboxes paying tribute to Thai architects. It's simply hard to make your way through. You would think an exhibition about men who design buildings would be more thoughtfully planned.