Thursday, April 23, 2015

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

Skin Trade

Tony Jaa, fresh off his well-received Hollywood debut in Fast and Furious 7, takes the lead in Skin Trade, a gritty crime drama that has the Thai action star teaming up with Swedish bruiser Dolph Lundgren to go after human traffickers in Bangkok.

It's directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham, a filmmaker and theater director who has been celebrating some of his own success lately, with the nightly stage show Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives marking one year of drawing crowds to the tourist-oriented Asiatique the Riverside Bangkok. Ekachai previously won widespread acclaim for his work on the fact-based transgender drama Beautiful Boxer, which was a winning mix of Muay Thai action and art-house sensibilities. He talks more about his work on Skin Trade in an article in The Nation.

Skin Trade has Jaa as a Thai policeman who teams up with a New York cop (Lundgren) to tangle with Serbian mobsters who are running a human-trafficking ring in Bangkok. Ron Perlman also stars, along with Celina Jade, Michael Jai White and Peter Weller.

The project is something Lundgren has been trying to get produced for a long time. The fair-haired action icon made his breakthrough as an imposing Russian boxer in Rocky IV and is among the cast of Stallone's Expendables movies. And he worked with Jaa on an unfinished movie called A Man Will Rise, which was set up at Thai studio Sahamongkol Film. Jaa at the time was going through a career transition, and he decamped from A Man Will Rise amid a still-boiling contract dispute with Sahamongkol. Under new manager and producer Michael Selby, Jaa and Lundgren eventually set to work on Skin Trade, which was made after Fast and Furious 7, and was filmed mostly in Thailand but also in Canada.

Skin Trade is just out here in Thailand and is set for a U.S. release on May 8 but early buzz from action-oriented websites has been positive. Although the English soundtrack is generally available, there's a Thai-dubbed version lurking as well, so take care when choosing the showtime. Rated 18+

Also opening

Woman in Gold – Helen Mirren stars in this fact-based drama, portraying Maria Altmann, a determined Jewish woman who fought a decades-long legal battle for the return of priceless Klimt masterpieces that were stolen from her family by the Nazis. Ryan Reynolds is her wet-behind-the-ears lawyer Randol Schoenberg. Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany and Max Irons also star. Critical reception is politely mixed. Rated 13+

The Age of Adaline – A 29-year-old woman who has remained ageless for some eight decades and has kept mostly to herself so others won't discover her secret, falls for a wealthy man. She spends a weekend with the man's parents in which she must make a decision that will change her life forever. Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker and Ellen Burstyn star. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 15+

4 Sao (สี่เส้า, a.k.a. Love Is) – Three ethnic Chinese women from Doi Mae Salong, Chiang Rai, head to college and develop a friendship with a young man named Kamol (Pongsakorn “Toei” Mettarikanon). Karanyapas Khumsin directs. Rated 15+

Fleet of Time – The relationship of six Beijing friends is traced from the waning days of high school in 1999 to a reunion 15 years later as one from their group is set to wed. In Chinese with English and Thai subtitles at CentralWorld, Esplanade Ratchada and Paragon; Thai-dubbed elsewhere. Rated 15+

108 Demon Kings – France, Belgium and Luxembourg team up with China for this animated fantasy, which is based on the literary epics The Water Margin and Journey to China. The story has three very different people – a prince, a monk and a pickpocket – teaming up to battle monstrous demons who are terrorizing the land. Thai-dubbed. Rated G

Also showing

Week of Portuguese Cinema – The fest continues at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center with screenings at 6 tonight and tomorrow. Tonight, it's the award-winning Tabu, about the epic star-crossed romance between expat lovers in colonial Africa. Directed by Miguel Gomes, it features tedium-inducing present-day Lisbon scenes in color with vivid memories of the past in stylishly framed black-and-white. His latest, a six-hour tryptch Arabian Nights as at the Cannes Director's Fortnight. Tomorrow, it's E Agora? Lembra-me (What Now? Remind Me), filmmaker Joaquim Pinto's first-person documentary about living with HIV. The fest returns on Saturday to the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, closing out with 35mm screenings. The show starts at 1 with Capitães De Abril (April Captains), a 2000 coup drama by Maria de Medeiros. That's followed by encore screenings of classic films by the late Manoel De Oliveira, 1990's Non Ou a Vã Glória De Mandar (No, or the Vain Glory of Command) and his 1942 debut Aniki-Bóbó. Seats can be reserved online at

Swedish Film Festival – Eight recent and well-acclaimed movies will be shown in this free festival at SFW CentralWorld. The opener at 7 tonight is the romance Belleville Baby followed at 8.40 by the quirky drama Hotell. Tomorrow has two more, the black comedy The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared at 7 and the romantic comedy Ego at 9.15pm. Saturday has the divorce documentary A Separation (Att skiljas) at 3pm, Ego at 5pm and the ensemble romantic drama Stockholm Stories at 7pm. Sunday starts at 3.30pm with the class-reunion comedy The Reunion (Återträffen), The 100-Year-Old Man at 5pm and the drama Shed No Tears at 7.30pm. The fest's entries are detailed in a special post and the schedule is at the SF Cinema City website. Tickets are free, and are handed out 30 minutes before each show.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Woody Allen explores the musical genre with 1996's Everyone Says I Love You. Tomorrow, it's a final "cult film" entry for the month with the black comedy The Last Supper. And on Saturday it's another of the best westerns with Sam Peckinpah's very stylish and unapologetically violent The Wild Bunch. Sunday's French classic is Breathless, Jean Luc-Goddard's debut that kicked off the French New Wave. And next Wednesday is one more Werner Herzog, his fact-based prisoner-of-war drama Rescue Dawn, which he filmed in Thailand with Christian Bale and Steve Zahn. It is based on Herzog's 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, about Dieter Dengler, a US Navy pilot whose plane went down in Laos during the Vietnam War. 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 – France's foreign minister navigates the tricky world of diplomacy in Quai d'Orsay (The French Minister), a 2013 comedy by French New Wave veteran Bertrand Tavernier. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, April 29.

Sneak preview

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Egotistical billionaire Tony "Iron Man" Stark just can't leave well enough alone. The eternally tinkering genius weapons developer creates an artificial-intelligence peacekeeping entity that becomes the evil killer robot Ultron. To clean up his mess, Stark needs the help of eyepatched maestro Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers – Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and a few other super folk. Joss Whedon directs. Critical reception is generally positive, with the consensus so far putting this sequel in the "almost as good as the first movie" category. Marvel's latest blockbuster has a one-day sneak preview next Wednesday before opening wide next Thursday. It'll be in converted 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX.

Take note

Apologies for last week's update, in which I forgot to include details about Perhaps Love, the 2005 Hong Kong musical that was the opener of this season's Contemporary World Film Series at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Don't miss the next entry in the series, this year's Oscar-winning Polish film Ida, which screens at the FCCT on May 11.

Other upcoming events include Bangkok Entertainment Week (including a Comic-Con) from April 30 to May 3,

Doc Weekend on May 2 and 3 at TK Park at CentralWorld will screen many noteworthy recent Thai documentaries including Somboon, Mother and Wish Us Luck.

And Movie Season 2 on May 9 and 10 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center will feature 16 student short films. Thanks to Art for letting me know about that.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

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

When Marnie Was There

Japan's vaunted animation house Studio Ghibli is reportedly winding things down, with When Marnie Was There being their final feature.

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Arietty), the story is based on a British children’s novel by Joan G. Robinson. It's about a shy sick tomboy who is sent to live with relatives in a coastal village. There, she has visions about a mysterious abandoned mansion and a blonde girl named Marnie who no one else has ever seen.

This will surely be a bittersweet film for fans of Studio Ghibli, which announced Marnie would be its last new movie following the retirement of studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki and the release of co-founding director Isao Takahata's The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Though this might only be a "short pause" while Ghibli rights itself, there 's nothing new yet in the pipeline.

Critical reception is generally positive. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles. In addition to Scala and House, it's also at CentralWorld, Paragon, Major Ratchayothin and Esplanade Ratchada. Rated G

Also opening

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – The undersea cartoon world of Bikini Bottom falls into chaos after a pirate (Antonio Banderas) steals the Krabby Patty Secret Formula, forcing Spongebob SquarePants and his pals from the deep to team up, enter our dimension and retrieve the beloved burger recipe. Critical reception is wackily positive. This opened in a sneak preview last week and now moves to a wider release. It's in real 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

Big Game – When Air Force One is shot down by terrorists, the US president – played by none other than Samuel L. Jackson – bails out in his escape pod and lands in the wilderness of Finland. There, he's encountered by a 13-year-old boy undergoing a traditional hunting rite of manhood. Armed with only a bow, it’s up to the kid to fend off attackers while leading the president to safety. Onni Tommila also stars. It's reportedly the most expensive film ever made in Finland. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 13+

Child 44 – Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman try out their Russian accents with varying degrees of success in this thriller that is adapted from the best-selling novels of Tom Rob Smith. Hardy is a state security officer in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. Disgraced and sent to a remote outpost, he bucks authority as he seeks to find out the truth about a child's death, which he believes to be the work of a serial killer preying on little boys. Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Boychoir – After his single mother dies in a car wreck, a talented-but-undisciplined Texas boy is packed off to an East Coast boarding school. The boy at first clashes with the school’s choirmaster (Dustin Hoffman), an old-fashioned disciplinarian, but soon learns to channel his hard feelings into his singing. Critical reception is mixed. Rated G

Demonic – College students investigating ghosts are found dead inside an abandoned home. A police detective (Frank Grillo) and a psychologist (Maria Bello) attempt to piece together what happened, with the help of – wait for it – video found at the scene. Critics have yet to discover this latest bit of nastiness, which is churned out of the mill of co-producer James Wan, one of the guys responsible for the sickening Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring as well as the new Fast and Furious movie. Rated 15+

Mr. X – Bollywood enters the realm of big-budget-blockbuster sci-fi with this week's big release, Mr. X, in which a young man gains the power of invisibility and becomes a revenge-seeking vigilante. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Martin Landau is man in a moral quandary in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors tonight. Tomorrow, it's Buffalo '66, cult director Vincent Gallo's love-it-or-hate-it crime drama about an ex-con who kidnaps a young woman (Christina Ricci) and forces her to pose as his wife as he seeks revenge against the man responsible for his imprisonment. On Saturday, it's another of the great westerns, The Searchers, which is is quite simply the best of the many fine films made by John Ford and John Wayne. And on Sunday, François Truffaut is struggling to make a film in the French classic Day for Night. Next Wednesday is another weird Werner Herzog movie, the mockumentary Incident at Loch Ness, which Zak Penn directed and Herzog produced. 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.

Week of Portuguese Cinema – Two films by Manoel de Oliveira will screen during the Week of Portuguese Cinema starting on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. De Oliveira, who was making movies well into his 100s, died on April 2 at age 106. Notably, the Thai Film Archive's screenings will feature exclusively 35mm prints, including de Oliveira's debut feature, 1942's Aniki Bobo and his 1990 epic Non Ou a vã Glória De Mandar (No, or the Vain Glory of Command). During the week, from Tuesday to next Friday, the Portuguese movies will screen at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, but it returns to the Archive on the following Saturday. The entire schedule is detailed in a previous post. Admission is free and you can book your seat online at

Alliance Française – After a break for Songkran, the free French films return next Wednesday with Hippocrate, a comedy-drama about a junior doctor who takes a job in a hospital ward headed by his father. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, April 22.

Sneak preview

Woman in Gold – Helen Mirren stars in this fact-based prestige drama, portraying Maria Altman, a determined Austrian woman who fights an extended legal battle for the return of priceless Klimt paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis. Ryan Reynolds is her lawyer Randol Schoenberg. Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany and Max Records also star. Critical reception is mixed. Officially not due to open until next week, this is in sneak previews from around 8 nightly in most multiplexes. Rated 13+

Take note

Bit of a mix bag of films this week and next as distributors get some smaller titles off their books and clear the decks for the next comic-book behemoth, Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will have a one-day sneak preview before opening wide on April 30.

Slightly overlapping the Week of Portuguese Cinema will be the Swedish Film Festival, which runs from April 23 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Details are covered in an earlier post and the schedule is online at the SF Cinema City website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Swedish Film Festival, April 23-26, 2015

Eight recent films will be screened in the Swedish Film Festival from April 23 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Here is the line-up:
  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – A centenarian dynamite expert escapes from an old folks home, embarking on a journey that leads to murders and suitcase full of cash. Felix Herngren directs this 2014 black comedy, which has won audience awards at festivals.
  • Ego – A 25-year-old hard-partying womanizer is forced to re-examine his life when he suddenly loses his eyesight.  Lisa James-Larsson directs this 2013 romantic comedy.
  • Belleville Baby – Director Mia Engberg reflects on a past romance in this 2013 autobiographical drama, in which an old flame calls and says he's spent many years in jail. She then recalls the tumultuous spring when she met him in Paris.
  • Stockholm Stories – Multiple plots are strung together in this 2013 comedy about five young urbanites whose paths cross during a few rainy days in November.
  • Shed No Tears – In Gothenburg, a young man dreaming of making it with his music embarks on an emotional journey to find inspiration. This drama was nominated for 10 Guldbagge Awards last year, Sweden's equivalent of the Oscars.
  • Hotell – Alicia Vikander, the young actress who is featured in the current hit Hollywood scary robot movie Ex Machina, stars in this 2013 drama. It's about depressed young folks find a way to shake off their dissatisfaction with life by checking into hotels in order to reboot their personalities.
  • The Reunion (Återträffen) – Swedish artist Anna Odell makes her directorial debut with his 2013 drama, which was inspired by her not receiving an invitation to a class reunion. She then sets out to imagine what it would have been like if she'd gone and confronted the classmates who bullied her. It was nominated for four Guldbagge Awards, and won the top-prize Best Film last year.
  • A Separation (Att skiljas) – Not to be confused with the award-winning Iranian drama with the same English title, this Swedish Separation is a tragic-comic documentary that chronicles the break-up of a marriage – that of the director's own parents.
This is one of those "free" film festivals, so you know the drill. Tickets will be made available 30 minutes before the show, but the queue for the precious little slips of paper starts forming long before that. Enjoy. For the schedule, please see the SF Cinemas website.