Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 31-August 6, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Marvel Cinematic Universe embraces the weird with its new franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy, in which a disparate band of desperados have to learn to work together in order to save us all.

Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation, The Lego Movie) stars as Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, a spacefaring adventurer who was abducted from Missouri as a boy and raised by criminals. He steals a valuable orb and is pursued by a bizarre group of bounty hunters – the green-skinned warrior woman Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the hulking Drax the Destroyer (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista), gun-toting raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Rocket's sidekick, the humanoid tree Groot, who only says "I am Groot." He's voiced by Vin Diesel.

The cast, absolutely overstuffed with talent, also includes John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou and Josh Brolin. Benicio Del Toro is "the Collector", described as an "outer-space Liberace".

The director is James Gunn, an inventive, cult-favorite figure who directed the low-budget genre hits Slither and Super.

Boosted by the recent San Diego Comic-Con, where a sequel for 2017 and an animated TV series was announced, anticipation is high. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G

Also opening

Rosewood Lane – After the death of her father, a talk-radio psychologist returns to her childhood home. There, a game of cat-and-mouse ensues as she gets into a conflict with a sociopath paperboy. Rose McGowan, Lauren Vélez, Lesley-Anne Down and Ray Wise star. Victor Salva, the controversial maker of the Jeepers Creepers series, directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

The Unreasonable Man (ไม่รู้.มันคืออะไร.แต่ชอบ) – Infamous "badboy" actor "Tao" Somchai Kemglad co-directs and stars in this indie project that was completed over the course of several years. He's a brooding Luddite barber who is given a cellphone and is mystified about how to use it. Supharat Boonamayam also directs, and Pramote Sangsorn co-stars. At 6 nightly at the Lido.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – A pair of thrillers close out July, with Guillermo del Toro's strange fantasy Pan's Labyrinth tonight and George Romero's original trapped-in-a-mall-by-zombies tale Dawn of the Dead. August brings a new program, with question-and-answer sessions on Wednesdays, Asian horror on Thursdays, Alan Parker on Fridays, "films that mess with your head" on Saturdays and classic film noir on Sundays. Saturday's head trip is Adrian Lynne's Vietnam veteran acid flashback Jacob's Ladder. Sunday, it's The Third Man, a moody mystery set in post-war Vienna starring Joseph Cotten, the zither and that cuckoo clock speech. Next Wednesday is the first in a series of question-and-answer sessions, with journalist and director Bradley Cox present to talk about Who Killed Chea Vichea? Banned in Cambodia, Cox's Peabody Award-winning documentary is a searing portrait of injustice under the Hun Sen regime. 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.

Elle Fashion Film Festival – Tonight's opening film is the brand-new French biopic Yves Saint Laurent, followed by My Way, chronicling the life of singer Claude François, writer of the hit song that would eventually become the signature tune of Frank Sinatra. Saturday's highlights include the romantic comedy Populaire, in which a French secretary becomes the world's fast typist, and Wes Anderson's much-anticipated The Grand Budapest Hotel, which almost didn't land a big-screen spot in Bangkok. Sunday includes another fine comedy from the winning duo of actor Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom, The Look of Love. The fest is at SFX the Emporium. Tickets are 200 baht and may be purchased in advance at the box office. For more details, please see my earlier blog post or the SF Cinema website.

The Lives of Others – Parts one and two of celebrated Russian director Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible comprise this Sunday's Film Virus double bill of biographical films at Thammasat University Tha Prachan. Made in 1944 with approval from Joseph Stalin, part one aimed to rally the wartorn Soviet Union by presenting the Tsar of all the Russias as a nationalist hero. The second part was completed in 1946 but was held up by state censorship until 1958, 10 years after Eisenstein died. Notably, the score is by the great composer Sergei Prokofiev. 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 – Selections from last year's My French Film Festival are featured throughout August, starting with Sport de filles, a 2011 drama in which a gifted professional horseback rider has her steed taken out from under her and has to start over. Patricia Mazuy directs; Josiane Balasko, Marina Hands and Bruno Ganz star. John Cale, yes that John Cale, composed the score. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, August 6.

Take note

The schedule is up for the First Silent Film Festival in Thailand, set for August 7 to 13 at the Apex cinemas in Siam Square. Organized by the British Council and the Thai Film Archive, it will feature restored prints of early Alfred Hitchcock works, his debut The Pleasure Garden, The Ring and The Lodger, and four other silents, all with live musical accompaniment. Most of the fest takes place at the Lido, where tickets are 100 baht and can be booked at the box office. However, the closing night gala, the only screening of The Lodger, is at the Scala, and it's 500 baht. I'll detail more about the fest in the next day or two.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Elle Fashion Film Festival, August 1-9, 2014

Crowd-pleasing comedies, biographical dramas and documentaries, all with a sense of style, will be shown in the Elle Fashion Film Festival from August 1 to 9 at SFX the Emporium.

Among the highlights is the latest opus by sartorially-obsessed filmmaker Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's a sweeping screwball comedy set in a fading European resort hotel. Other entries include the biopics Yves Saint Laurent, My Way and The Look of Love, the French comedies Populaire and Me, Myself and Mum and the documentaries Advanced Style, Notebook on Cities and Clothes and The Day Before: Fendi and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Here's the line-up:

  • Yves Saint Laurent – The opening film looks at the young designer in 1957 as he's unexpectedly called upon to oversee the great fashion house established by the recently deceased Christian Dior. He meets the love of his life Pierre Berg้, and together they create the YSL fashion label. Jalil Lespert directs this brand-new French biopic, with Pierre Niney as Saint Laurent and Guillaume Gallienne as Berg้. It screens at 7 on August 1, at 7.10pm on August 3 and 8.40pm on August 5.
  • My Way (Cloclo) – The life of a trendsetting singer and the origins of a famous song are covered in this biopic about French showman Claude Francois, whose big hit “Comme d’habitude” eventually became the signature tune of Frank Sinatra. Jérémie Renier stars. It screens at 9.20pm on August 1 and closes the fest at 7.30pm on August 9.
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson's latest film almost didn't come to the big screen in Bangkok – I think distributors shied away from it because the director uses different aspect ratios to represent different time periods as it covers several decades in the life of a legendary concierge (Ralph Fiennes). Full of colorful and quirky characters, the all-star cast includes F Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Lea Seydoux, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton. Anderson regulars Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson also appear. It screens three times – 7.30pm on August 2, 9.20pm on August 4 and 8.40pm on August 7.
  • Populaire – Typewriter keys click fast and furiously in this vivid 1950s-set French comedy about a young secretary (Déborah François) who is trained by her boss (Romain Duris) to be the fastest typist in the world. It screens at 3pm on August 2 and 5pm on August 9.
  • Notebook on Cities and Clothes – Famed German director Wim Wenders interviews Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto in this 1989 documentary, with the pair ponder on the relationships between cities, identity and the cinema in the digital age. It screens at 5.30pm on August 2 and 7pm on August 8.
  • The Look of Love – English actor Steve Coogan again collaborates with director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, Tristram Shandy, The Trip) for this zippy, fact-based yarn about 1950s British soft-porn publisher, club owner and impresario Paul Raymond. Matt Lucas, Imogen Poots, Anna Friel and Tamsin Egerton also star. It screens at 3pm on August 3 and 8.40pm on August 8.
  • Me, Myself and Mum (Les garçons et Guillaume, à table!) – Winner of the Art Cinema Prize during the Directors’ Fortnight at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, this French comedy stars Guillaume Gallienne, who adapts his own one-man stage show – an autobiographical romp about his sexually confused youth and his love-hate relationship with his domineering mother, who raised him more like a daughter than a son. Screens at 5.10pm on August 3 and 9.20pm on August 6.
  • The Day Before: Fendi and Jean Paul Gaultier – Iconic designers Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gaultier take centerstage in this documentary capturing the flurry of activity in the hours before a major fashion showcase. It screens at 7pm on August 4 and August 6.
  • Advanced Style – Showing that style never really grows old, this documentary looks at the lives of seven unique New York women, aged 62 to 95, who challenge conventional ideas about beauty, ageing and society’s obsession with youth. It shows at 7pm on August 5 and August 7.

Tickets are 200 baht and can be purchased in advance at the cinema box office. For more details, call (02) 268 8888 or check

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 24-30, 2014

The Rover


Robert Pattinson tangles with Guy Pearce in The Rover, a gritty Outback western by Australian director David Michôd, working from a script he collaborated on with writer-actor Joel Edgerton.

The story takes place in a dystopian near future in which a worldwide economic collapse has forced many folks to relocate to Australia. Roving packs of outlaws have taken hold.

Pattinson is a member of a criminal gang who is hurt and left behind by his cohorts in a dusty desert town. They take off in a car belonging to a mysterious loner (Pearce), who forces the wounded man to help him retrieve his ride.

Scoot McNairy, Gillian Jones, David Field, Tawanda Manyimo, Anthony Hayes and Nash Edgerton also star.

A follow-up to Michôd's critically hailed 2010 Australian mafia drama Animal Kingdom, anticipation for The Rover has been high among fans. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive, with high marks for the performances by both Pattinson and Pearce. Rated 18+

Also opening

Hercules – Dwayne Johnson muscles his way into the role of the Greek demigod in the second film this year about Hercules. The other was director Renny Harlin's The Legend of Hercules with Kellan Lutz. Based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Tracian wars, Herc is a sword-for-hire who takes a job from the King of Thrace and his daughter, who want his help defeating a warlord. Other stars include English stage-and-screen talents John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane and Joseph Fiennes. Just out in the U.S. this week, critical reception is thus far unknown, but given that the critics' favorite whipping boy Brett Ratner (Tower Heist, Rush Hour) is the director, I can't imagine anticipation is very high. Rated 13+

The Fault in Our Stars – A teenage cancer sufferer is sent to a support group where she falls in love. Shailene Woodley (Divergent) stars. Critical reception is generally positive. This opened in sneak previews last week and now moves to a wide release. Rated 13+

Kwam Rak Nang Marn Rai (ความลับ นาง มารร้าย) – Busaba (Pechaya Wattanamontri) and her friends vow not to become committed to guys but all that changes when she meets the reliable and honest Nuasamut (Teeradej Mathavaravuj). At first she tries to stick to the rules but when she tries to win him back, she discovers she has to fight off rivals for his affections. Ong-art Cheamcharoenporn directs. Rated 15+

No Tears for the Dead – A Korean-American hitman botches an assignment, killing an innoncent girl. Full of remorse, he finds himself in South Korea on the trail of his intended target, but ends up falling in love. Jang Dong-gun anmd Kim Min-hee star, and Lee Jeong-beom (The Man from Nowhere) directs. At Major Cineplex; Thai-dubbed only. Rated 18+

From Vegas to Macau – Chow Yun-fat takes on his God of Gamblers persona from the 1990s Hong Kong franchise for this action-comedy in which he's a former gambler and casino security consultant who works with a pair of young conmen (Nicolas Tse and Chapman To). Critical reception is generally positive. Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+

Kick – Bollywood action star Salman  Khan is Devil, an adrenaline junkie who turns to a life of crime as he looks for the next "kick" to keep life interesting. Jacqueline Fernandez and Nawazuddin Siddiqui also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya, as well as Paragon, EGV Maesot and Hatyai Cineplex. Opens Friday.

Also showing

House 10-Year Anniversary – The final week of the boutique cinema's series of special screenings has many highlights. Tonight, it's a sneak preview of the critical darling Boyhood, which celebrated indie director Richard Linklater filmed over the course of more than a decade, capturing the growth of a boy to his teen years. It opens in cinemas on September 4. Tomorrow is a "surprise" selection of a "House Phenomenon". Saturday is "Ter's Day", giving buzzworthy young director Nawapol "Ter" Thamrongrattanarit space to show his two recent features, the experimental romance 36 and the Twitter-driven teen comedy-drama Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy. Sunday offers a pair of classics from the Alliance Française – To Our Loves by Maurice Pialat and La Cérémonie by Claude Chabrol. Monday is another "surprise" film and Tuesday is the hit musical romance Once, the follow-up to which, Begin Again, is currently in cinemas. The series closes out next Wednesday with the award-winning teen drama The Love of Siam, chronicling the puppy-love relationship of boyhood friends. Check the Facebook schedule for the full line-up and check the Facebook page for showtimes.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, a car crash and a wounded dog connect three tragic tales of life and love in Mexico in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores Perros – the strongest of his "Death Trilogy" that's rounded out by his English-language efforts 21 Grams and Babel. First rule about the movie tomorrow, is you don't talk about the movie tomorrow. Second rule is ... well, you know. Saturday offers another quirky Australian tale, the cult classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, with Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp as transgender performers taking their act on the road in the Outback. Sunday is the final entry in this month's Fred Astaire films, Royal Wedding, in which he dances on the ceiling. Next Wednesday, a Roman Catholic cardinal is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun in Ken Russell's debauched tale from 1971, The Devils. 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 film-expert collective Film Virus takes an eclectic look at biographical dramas in this new series of Sunday double features at Thammasat University. It opens this Sunday with Hannah Arendt, a 2012 biopic of the German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist, centering on her response to the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann, which she covered for The New Yorker. Margarethe von Trotta directs. Next is an early effort by Werner Herzog, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, based on the true-life account of an orphan foundling. It won the Grand Prix at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival. Other films in the series are Sergei M. Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible (parts one and two), Goya in Bordeaux, Utamaro and His Five Women, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Hamsun, The Doors, When You're Strange, Mahler, Bill Douglas Trilogy, The Best Intentions, Savage Nights, Caro Diario, My Life and Times with Antonin Artaud and Room and a Half. Shows start at 12.30. The venue is at Thammasat University Thai Prachan in the Pridi Banomyong Library's 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 – July's program of "On a Journey" closes out with the 2012 road-trip comedy Mobile Home, about a pair of childhood friends who reunite for a drive in a recreational vehicle. François Pirot directs; Arthur Dupont, Guillaume Gouix and Claudine Pelletier star. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, July 30.

Take note

Why is it one week, cinemas and distributors release maybe one or two films, and then the next week they go absolutely nuts and spring like seven or eight on us? Drives me nuts. In addition to all that, there are several notable film events coming up, which are actually a big relief.

First up is the Elle Fashion Film Festival from August 1 to 9 at SFX the Emporium. Highlights include Wes Anderson's style-oozing Grand Budapest Hotel – a big surprise for Bangkok film-goers who thought this wasn't getting a big-screen slot. There's a mix of biopics, documentaries and comedies, among them the Look of Love starring Steve Coogan and directed by Michael Winterbottom. Or, how about a doc in which Wim Wenders talks with Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto? It's 1989's Notebook on Cities and Clothes. Happily, you can actually buy tickets and book seats in advance. They are 200 baht. I'll detail more about the fest in the coming days.

A highly anticipated event is the First Silent Film Festival in Thailand, from August 7 to 13 at the Lido and Scala cinemas. Organized by the British Council and the Thai Film Archive, it will feature restored prints of early Alfred Hitchcock works, his debut The Pleasure Garden, The Ring and The Lodger, all with live musical accompaniment. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for further details.

Finally, there's the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival from August 28 to September 7 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. In in the run-up to that, there's the Short Film Marathon going on until August 6 in the BACC's mini-theater, the second-floor FA Cinematheque, screening all 500 entries to the fest. Shows are from 4.30 to 8.30 Wednesday to Friday and 11am to 8.30pm on weekends.