Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 26-December 2, 2015

German Open Air Cinema

Along with the resprouting of beer gardens in Bangkok, the end of the monsoon rains and the return of cool evening air also signifies the start of the annual German Open Air Cinema season at the Goethe-Institut Thailand.

Running on Tuesday nights from December 1 to 15 and January 5 to February 16, the series will screen 10 recent critically acclaimed German films, including many award winners.

Opening night, which starts at 6.30pm, has Patong Girl, a family drama and romance that was filmed in Thailand. It follows a German family on vacation in Phuket, where the teenage son falls for a young Thai woman and runs off. The mother goes off on in search and ends up finding herself. It was directed by Susanna Salonen, and she and members of the cast will be present for a talk after the screening.

Tuesday night's opener will be accompanied by a 2013 German short film, Elite, directed by Piet Baumgartner. It's about a management consultant who closes a complicated deal and as a surprise has an escort hired for him by the client.

Other entries include the period romance The Beloved Sisters on December 8 and the sci-fi comedy Art Girls on December 15.

After a break for Christmas and New Year's, the series resumes on January 5 with Jack, a childhood drama about a 10-year-old boy and his younger brother searching for their mother.

Others are the ex-convict drama I Am the Keeper on January 12; the computer-hacker thriller WhoAmI on January 26; the historical drama We Are Young. We Are Strong., about neo-Nazi riots in 1992; and the 1950s-set transgender romance The Circle on February 9.

The series wraps up on February 16 with Suck Me Shakespeer, a comedy in which an ex-convict takes a job as a schoolteacher so he can search for stolen loot he hid on the school grounds. A hit in Germany, it spawned a sequel that was released this year.

Shows are at 7.30pm on the grounds of the Goethe-Institut, off Sathorn Soi 1. For more details, check the Goethe website. And for opening night, check the Facebook events page.


The Good Dinosaur – Talking reptilians and humanoids co-exist this new Disney-Pixar animated comedy-drama about the adventure of a lost young apatosaurus named Arlo and his new pal, a feral caveboy named Spot. The voice cast includes Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, Steve Zahn, Frances McDormand and Jeffrey Wright. With The Good Dinosaur following Inside Out a few months back, this is the first time Disney-Pixar has released two films in one year, but then there was nothing from Pixar in 2014, so they are making up for lost time. Long in the works, The Good Dinosaur has been in development for many, many years, going through a rigorous process of fine tuning until the Pixar-powers-that-be deemed the story was just right. Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus seeming to place The Good Dinosaur in the pantheon of "minor" Pixar works, somewhere around the likes of Monsters Inc. but above Cars. As with all Disney-Pixar movies, The Good Dinosaur has a preceding cartoon short, in this case Sanjay’s Super-Team, in which a meditating Indian boy dreams his Hindu gods are superheroes. Rated G

Gayby Baby – Four children who are being raised by gay and lesbian parents are profiled in this Australian picture, which is the latest release by the Documentary Club. It won the second-place audience award at the Sydney Film Festival and is a nominee for the Australian Film Institute awards. Critical reception is generally positive. It's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld as well as at SFX Maya Chiang Mai. For further details, check the Documentary Club's Facebook page or SF cinemas' booking site. Rated G

Stung – Party-goers and catering staff at a fancy outdoor gathering come under attack by giant, mutated wasps. An indie horror-comedy, it's directed by Benni Diez, a visual-effects artist making his directorial debut. Clifton Collins Jr., Jessica Cook, Matt O’Leary and Lance Henrikson are among the stars. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Kill Your Friends – At the height of the 1990s Britpop boom, a young record-company executive (Nicholas Hoult) will stop at nothing as he looks for his next hit. An indie British comedy, it's adapted from a best-selling novel by John Niven. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Knock Knock – Whoa. Poor Keanu Reeves. He's a family man who is left at home alone one weekend and comes under attack from two strange young women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) who show up at his door asking for help. Directed by Quentin Tarantino's pal Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno), the erotic thriller is a remake of the 1970s exploitation film Death Game, which starred Seymour Cassel, Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Momentum – A thief (Olga Kurylenko) with a secret past accidentally reveals her identity during what should have been a routine jewel heist. She is then pursued by a master assassin (James Purefoy) and his team of killers. It's helmed by Stephen S. Campanelli, a veteran camera operator on many movies who makes his feature debut as a director. Critical reception is generally negative. Rated 18+

By the Sea – Angelina Jolie Pitt writes, directs and co-stars in this romantic drama with her husband Brad Pitt. It's her third feature as a director, following the Bosnian war drama Land of Blood and Honey and the World War II epic Unbroken. Set in 1970s France, By the Sea is a portrait of a couple who growing apart as they linger at a tranquil, picturesque seaside resort. The celebrity couple actually made this while they were on their honeymoon. Perhaps feeling grossed out, as if they caught their parents in the bedroom, critics have just rolled their eyes. Rated 18+

Tamasha – A young man and a young woman meet during a vacation on the island of Corsica. Sharing a love for storytelling, they explore the island together and form a troupe to stage dramatic plays, all while not disclosing their real names. Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone star in this epic globetrotting musical comedy-drama, which features music by A.R. Rahman. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III, Pattaya, Paragon and EGV Mae Sot.

Also showing

EVAWG Film Festival – Serious issues are the focus of the first Bangkok edition of an international film festival for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG), which has screenings until Sunday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Tonight's invite-only opener is Dukhtar (Daughter), the feature debut of writer-director Afia Nathaniel, which is Pakistan’s official submission to this year’s Academy Awards. Here is the rest of the line-up:

  • Ilo Ilo – Singaporean director Anthony Chen's semi-autobiographical drama follows a young Filipina as she goes to work for a middle-class Singaporean family in the midst of the 1997 financial crisis. While dealing with the demanding pregnant mother, she bonds with the family's five-year-old son and keeps a secret of the dad. Ilo Ilo was the first Singaporean feature to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival, taking the Camera d'Or honors. Screens at 5.30pm tomorrow.
  • Te doy mis ojos (Take My Eyes) – This award-winning 2003 Spanish drama is about the roller-coaster relationship of a young mother and her abusive husband. Screens at 8.30 tomorrow.
  • When We Leave – This 2010 Turkish-German drama has a young German-Turkish woman fleeing an abusive marriage in Istanbul and seeking safety with her family in Berlin. Screens at 2.30pm on Saturday.
  • Girl Rising – Uplifting stories about girls from nine countries are told in this star-studded documentary. Each girl’s story written by well-known writers from each country and voiced by big-name actors. For example, a Cambodian girl’s story is written by noted Cambodian author Loung Ung. Celebrities lending their voices include Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett and Selena Gomez. Screens at 5pm on Saturday.
  • Girlhood – A shy, abused African-French teenage girl moves into a new neighborhood and comes out of her shell when she's accepted into a gang of girls. A 2014 drama, it's directed by Céline Sciamma, who previously did the coming-of-age romance Tomboy. Screens at 8pm on Saturday.
  • Refugiado (Refugee) –  A pregnant woman and her eight-year-old son are forced to flee the boy’s abusive father in this award-winning 2014 Argentine drama. Screens at 3pm on Sunday.
  • Private Violence – “Why didn’t she just leave?” It's a difficult-to-answer question that vexes victim advocates. This 2014 documentary examines the tough answers to that question and aims to have folks asking different questions. Screens at 5pm on Sunday.
  • Brave Miss World – Israeli model and actress Linor Abargil – crowned Miss World in 1998 – turns her shocking story of tragedy into a forum for global activism against rape. Screens at 7.30pm on Sunday.
The screenings will be accompanied by discussions from UN Women and other advocacy groups. Tickets are free and will be handed out 30 minutes before the shows. For more details, check the festival website or Facebook events page.

The Friese-Greene Club – November has one more documentary-style comedy from Christopher Guest, who dislikes the "mockumentary" term that's been applied his films. Tonight's entry is For Your Consideration, in which Guest and company skewer the annual idiocy that is Hollywood's "awards season". Tomorrow's "thoroughly modern China" movie is Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin, which reflects on four recent episodes in contemporary Chinese history. And Sunday has Todd Solondz' Happiness, which is just the thing you need to watch in the midst of this festive season. 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.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Although the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series has closed its books on 2015, they are still showing films at the club. Next week, it's the documentary Frame by Frame, which tracks four photojournalists as they navigate an emerging and dangerous media landscape in Afghanistan. Admission for non-members is 150 baht. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, December 2, at the FCCT.

Alliance Française – A schoolteacher tries to inspire curiosity among a multi-cultural roster of teen students in Les héritiers (Once in a Lifetime), a fact-based drama from last year. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, December 2, at the Alliance.

Take note

Following a limited run at SF cinemas and an appearance at the World Film Festival of Bangkok, the existential-crisis art-house drama Vanishing Point by artist-filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong is back. It's now screening at House on RCA. So check it out.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 19-25, 2015

The Lobster

Weird movies are part and parcel of film festivals, but, thanks to the ever-so-gradually maturing tastes of Thai distributors and film-goers, more and more of these oddball pictures are finding their way off the reservation and into general release in local cinemas.

Case in point this week is The Lobster, a satirically absurdist romantic drama starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Olivia Colman and Ben Whishaw. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, a Greek helmer making his English-language debut, it's set in a near-future dystopian society where singles are ordered to live in the restrictive "Hotel" and are required by law to find a love match. Failure to do so results in being killed or transformed into animals.

The Lobster made its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was in main Palme d'Or competition. It's likely to also be something of a fixture during the awards season, having already scored nominations for the British Independent Film Awards. Critical reception is crazily good, but the consensus warns that it's "definitely an acquired taste". If you've seen Lanthimos' Dogtooth (screened at a festival in Bangkok a few years back) or Alps, you know what kind wackiness to expect. Rated 15+

Also opening

Z for Zachariah – Two men and one woman – Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine and Margot Robbie – are in a love triangle after they are left as the apparent only survivors of a global disaster. Craig Zobel (Compliance and HBO's The Leftovers) directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 13+

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – Watch the drama unfold as Jennifer Lawrence frees herself from the clutches of a young-adult science-fiction novel franchise. Donald Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin and Josh Hutcherson also star. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 15+

Also showing

World Film Festival of Bangkok – Still lots to see as the 13th edition of the WFFBKK rolls into its closing weekend at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Among today's highlights is The Hamsters, a Mexican comedy about a highly dysfunctional family. There's also an encore screening of Arabian Nights Volume 1: The Restless One, an oddball movie by Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, who uses the One Thousand and One Nights tales as a template for absurdist stories from the frontlines in austerity-measures-wracked Portugal. Volume 2: The Desolate One screens on Friday and Volume 3: The Enchanted One shows on Saturday. These have been a hot ticket at the festival, with serious film-loving Thais packing the screenings. I liked Volume 1 the best, but the other two are rewarding in their own ways. Tomorrow is another chance to see Cronopios and Famas, a tuneful Argentine stop-motion-animated adaptation of various stories by Julio Cortázar, which focused on the struggles of the proletariat. The fest wraps up on Sunday with the invite-only Thai premiere of Suffragette, an acclaimed British historical drama that is going to get a general release in Thai cinemas.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Takashi Miike seeks to shock you with Visitor Q, while tomorrow fussy dog owners and trainers are profiled in the documentary-style comedy Best in Show by Christopher Guest. The sale of women for marriage in China is examined in Li Yang's Blind Mountain on Saturday while on Sunday artist-filmmaker Miranda July gets up to her usual tricks in the quirky romantic comedy Me and You and Everyone We Know. And next Wednesday has Al Pacino as a "60 Minutes" producer whose segment exposes secrets of the tobacco industry in Michael Mann's The Insider. Russell Crowe also stars, playing the cigarette-company whistleblower. 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 – Next in the continuing series of climate-change films this month is Il était une forêt (Once Upon a Time in the Forest), a documentary by Luc Jacquet, who previously did the Oscar-winning March of the Penguins. For his 2012 film, Jacquet went deep into a rainforest with help from botanist and ecologist Francis Hallé. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, November 25, at the Alliance.

Take note

There's a free film festival next week – the Bangkok edition of the International Film Festival on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, which will screen nine dramas and documentaries from November 26 to 29 at SF World. Find out more at the EVAGWG film festival website or the Facebook event page.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 12-18, 2015

13th World Film Festival of Bangkok

The 13th World Film Festival of Bangkok is upon us, opening to the public on Saturday and running until November 22 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

The schedule is available for downloading. Here's the advice I generally give to festival newbies: Show up when you have time and see whatever is playing. Whatever you see at the festival will likely be better and/or more interesting than anything else that's ordinarily screening.

The highlights are many. The festival programmers have been especially enthusiastic about the three-part, six-hour Arabian Nights by Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, who will be visiting Bangkok during the fest. Set in contemporary Portugal, it's a fanciful adaptation of the One Thousand and One Nights tales. It premiered during Director's Fortnight at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and was greeted by much critical acclaim.

Other programmer-suggested highlights include the classic French film Contempt, directed by Jean-Luc Godard and starring Brigitte Bardot; this year's Cannes Palme d'Or winner, the Sri Lankan immigrant tale Dheepan; the quirky Mexican comedy The Hamsters; the Chinese-German schoolteacher documentary On the Rim of the Sky; the Peruvian mining documentary Daughter of the Lake; and the animated French fantasy The Day of the Crows.

I want to see the Filipino film Ruined Heart, but have scheduling conflicts. Seems all the good films are showing at the same times.

Tickets are 120 baht. And hey! Two WFFBKK ticket stubs entitle you to a free 44-ounce Coke. So enjoy the festival.


The Gift – A married couple are having a swell life until a dimly remembered acquaintance of the husband comes bearing mysterious gifts and secrets from the past. Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Joel Edgerton star. Edgerton, the Australian actor from such films as Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby and Exodus: Gods and Kings, also wrote and directed this thriller, which has been met with much positive critical acclaim. Rated 15+

American Ultra – A small-town stoner (Jesse Eisenberg) is actually a sleeper secret agent and assassin. He's forced to get back in touch with his particular set of skills when he and his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) come under attack. Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman and Tony Hale also star. Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) directs this action-comedy written by Max Landis (Chronicle, Victor Frankenstein). Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Life – Friendship develops between a rookie photographer for Life magazine and an up-and-coming actor named James Dean. Robert Pattinson is the lensman Dennis Stock while Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) portrays Dean. Anton Corbijn, the director who's done a mix of music videos and features such as The American and A Most Wanted Man, directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 15+

The 33 – The 2010 Chilean mining disaster is recalled in this drama about 33 trapped miners and their efforts to stay alive for more than two months as a globally televised effort to save them becomes a reality. Antonio Banderas stars as "Super Mario" Sepúlveda, the spiritual leader of the trapped men. Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, James Brolin, Gabriel Byrne and Bob Gunton also star. Critical reception is mixed. Rated G

Love Next Door 2 – In this sequel to a hit 2013 gay romantic comedy, a virginal young man (Angkoon Jeenukul) is the object of lust for customers at the restaurant where he works. Ratthapol Pholthabtim, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit and Jenny Panan star. Rated 18+

Father and Son (Phor Lae Lukchai, พ่อและลูกชาย) – Gay dad Ek (Thanapon Prasongsab) raised his surrogate son alone after his partner died. Teased by his friends, the youngster tries to escape from his home situation and starts dating Nut. However, Nut falls for the kid's dad. At SFW CentralWorld and Esplanade Ratchada. Rated 20-

Tiger Women (Phromajan Suay Phan Sayong, พรหมจรรย์ สวยพันธุ์สยอง) – A trip into the jungle leaves a young woman much changed. She's under suspicion when she returns to the city and dead men turn up, appearing to have been killed by a tiger. An erotic thriller, it's released by Thana Entertainment. Atsajun Sattakovit (Soul's Code) directs. Rated 18+

Sang Sudthai Khong E-Hien (แสงสุดท้ายของอีเหี่ยน) – A country comedy in the same vein as Yam Yasothon, Mon Love Sib Muen and Poo Bao Tai Baan E-San Indy, this one involves a country girl who comes to the city to search for her mother but ends up losing all her money and cannot return home. Rated G

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo – It's Diwali, the big Hindu holiday and a key weekend for Bollywood movie releases. This year's tentpole is a Salman Khan film, which has the superstar pairing up with leading lady Sonam Kapoor. He's a happy-go-lucky hero who performs traditional "Ram-Leelas" plays and donates all the money he earns to a charity run by a princess, whom he sets out to meet. And oh, he looks just like the realm's evil ruler. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles, it opens today Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III, Pattaya and Paragon and adds more venues tomorrow, Major Cineplex Chiang Mai Airport Plaza, Hat Yai and EGV Mae Sot.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Apart from the club's November schedule of Al Pacino on Wednesdays, Takashi Miike on Thursdays, Christopher Guest on Fridays, contemporary China on Saturdays and existential crises on Sundays, there's a special screening next Tuesday – On Your Mark, Get Set, Mow! Making its official Thai premiere, the documentary by Mike Ratel is a look at an annual lawn-tractor race put on by a Michigan family to benefit research into Huntington's disease, the debilitating illness suffered by Woody Guthrie, among others. Tonight, a wrapped-up corpse will suddenly sit up and scare the daylights out of you in Audition. Tomorrow, colorful inhabitants of a small town await the arrival of a Broadway producer in Waiting for Guffman. On Saturday, it's Blind Shaft, a 2003 film that is such an accurate depiction of corruption that it is still banned in China. On Sunday, Kevin Spacey and Chris Cooper are in the midst of mid-life crises in American Beauty. And next Wednesday has Pacino and his Godfather brother John Cazale in Dog Day Afternoon. Attica! Attica! 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 – November's movies at the Alliance are all about climate change, including this month's "kids' movie", La prophétie des grenouilles (Raining Cats and Frogs), a 2002 animated feature about a modern-day Noah. It screens at 2pm on Saturday. There's a special Tuesday screening next week, Human, the latest documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the photographer who uses dramatic aerial-photography images to show our devastating impact on the planet. It shows at 7pm next Tuesday. And the usual Wednesday screening has back-to-back episodes of a TV documentary series, Planete Glace: Himalaya and Planete Glace: Alpes. They screen at 7pm on Wednesday, November 18, at the Alliance.