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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 17-23, 2014

Words and Pictures

Juliette Binoche did her own paintings in Words and Pictures. She's an art teacher at a prep school who is challenged by an English teacher (Clive Owen) to a popularity contest about what is more powerful – literature or art. Binoche's character, an abstract painter forced to take up teaching by her disability, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, so she comes up with innovative ways to practise her art. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Apex Siam Square, House, CentralWorld, Paragon and Esplanade Ratchada. Rated 15+

Also opening

Step Up: All In – The fifth installment in the street-dance franchise rounds up an all-star cast and heads to Las Vegas for yet another grand showdown. Briana Evigan and Ryan Guzman star. Critical reception is ... well, who cares? It's in actual 3D in some cinemas. Rated 15+

Also showing

House 10-Year Anniversary – Sucks that Grand Budapest Hotel isn't getting a proper theatrical release in Thailand. It's going to straight to DVD. Maybe it's because of the varying aspect ratios Wes Anderson show his movie in? Oh well, House will show it on the big screen just once, for free, tonight, as part its 10th-anniversary celebration. Tomorrow, it's a "House Phenomenon" – the erotically charged World War II spy yarn from China, Lust, Caution by Ang Lee. On Saturday, it's a full day of free programming from the Japan Foundation, and on Sunday, enjoy the Food Festival, featuring the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi and other surprise selections. On Monday, it's a dysfunctional family in Tokyo Sonata. And Tuesday, check out another "House Phenomenon", Blue is the Warmest Color. Wednesday is the taut Iranian drama The Song of Sparrows. Check the Facebook schedule for the full line-up and check the Facebook page for showtimes.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, head into the slums of Rio for the coming-of-age crime drama City of God. Bryan Singer is in a heap of trouble right now, but that doesn't stop The Usual Suspects from being a great film. It screens tomorrow. Saturday, it's another charming Australian film with Muriel's Wedding, and Sunday has Fred Astaire teaming up with Judy Garland in Easter Parade. Next Wednesday is the weird monk mystery, The Name of the Rose, starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater. 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 – For the Bangkok Art and Culture Center's bi-monthly screening series, producer-director Jira Maligool (Mekhong Full Moon Party, The Tin Mine) has chosen a 2001 comedy by Czech great Vladimir Michalek, Autumn Spring. It's about an elderly prankster (Vlastimil Brodsky) who wants to keep honing his craft as an actor, even if his family members wish he'd just grow up already. For a talk afterward, Jira will be joined by young filmmaker Witthaya Thongyuyong. The show's at 5.30pm on Saturday, with registration open at 4.30.

Alliance Française – "On a Journey" is this month's theme, and next week's offering heads to the Italian Riviera with Pauline Détective, about a young blonde woman in a bikini investigating a murder. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, July 23.

Sneak preview

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. It's in nightly sneak previews before opening wider next week, as is the E.T.-found-footage children's story Earth to Echo.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 10-16, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Gun-toting apes are on horseback in the second entry in the rebooted science-fiction franchise, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which takes place 10 years after the events of 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The experiments that gave rise to evolved apes also created a virus that mutated and wiped out most of humanity.

A small band of human survivors are hanging on in San Francisco, trying to get the power back on. Meanwhile, the intelligent ape leader Caesar and his followers have retreated to the forests in hopes of living in peace. However, there is conflict on both sides. For the humans, it's Gary Oldman, leading a band of bloodthirsty anti-ape malcontents, while among the primates, not everyone is united behind Caesar.

Other stars include Jason Clarkson as a level-headed survivor. Andy Serkis, the motion-capture master, again portrays the chimpanzee Caesar, using the same technology that breathed life into such digital characters as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and the latest Godzilla. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) directs.

Critical reception is wildly positive. It's in real 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Also opening

Love Slave (ทาสรักอสูร, Tas Rak Asoon) – Comedian, actor and director Petchtai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkamlao parodies 1970s Thai melodramas, TV's "slap-and-kiss" soap operas and perhaps some of his own misogyny with this story of a high-society woman ("Pinky" Sawika Chaiyadej) who is abducted and taken to an island commune where she's abused by the island's owner (Mum) and other residents, including a couple other women (Sakaojai Poonsawat and Lakana Wattanawongsiri). Rated 15+-

A Million Ways to Die in the West – For his first live-action film role, Family Guy and Ted creator Seth MacFarlane strings together a bunch of cliched jokes and pop-culture references about life in the old American west. He's a meek sheep farmer who has to work up the courage to face a notorious outlaw. For help, he's rounded up Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Liam Neeson and a host of other stars in cameos. Critical reception is mostly negative. Most think you should eat a heaping plate of baked beans and watch Blazing Saddles instead of this. Rated 18+

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania – Back in action with SF cinemas, local entrepreneurs the Bollywood Thai boys bring the latest production by Karan Johar to town. The Punjabi romantic-comedy stars Varun Dhawan as a Delhi lad who falls for the unattainable new girl in town (Alia Bhatt). It's at SF Cinema City Terminal 21, SFC Jungceylon Phuket and SFX Pattaya Beach. Shows are at 3, 6 and 8.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays, 6 and 8.30pm on weekdays. Opens Friday.

Also showing

House 10-Year Anniversary – A mini film festival, House's monthlong 10th anniversary celebration continues tonight with a free sneak preview of The Fault in Our Stars, about a teenage girl with terminal cancer who falls in love with a guy from her support group. Fault will also have a sneak preview run next week in most cinemas before opening wide on July 24. Tomorrow, it's Last Life in the Universe, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's darkly comic tale of romance between a lonely Japanese librarian and a grieving young Thai woman. Saturday is the Thai premiere of Letters from the South, an omnibus look at the Chinese communities across Southeast Asia. An offering from the new indie outfit Mosquito Films Distribution, it's in six parts. The directors are Thailand's Aditya Assarat, Royston Tan and Sun Koh from Singapore, Taiwanese-Myanmar helmer Midi Z, Malaysia's Tan Chui Mui and Taiwanese-Malaysian auteur Tsai Ming-liang. Outside of a film festival, I'm not sure this is getting a release here, so catch it while you can. Sunday has a pair of free documentaries from the Alliance Française – Nostalgia for the Light and All Is Forgiven. Monday will be a free surprise film, and Tuesday is a "House Phenomenon", the tense Iranian Oscar-winning family drama A Separation. And Wednesday is another old favorite of the House programmers, the gripping Brazilian crime drama City of God. Check the Facebook schedule for the full line-up and check the Facebook page for showtimes.

The Friese-Greene Club – Coming-of-age friendship and romance head south of the (U.S.) border with Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También, starring Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna as pair of sex-obsessed teens who take a road trip with an older woman. Friday's "American as apple pie" feature is Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now. It's the original version, not the redux, but who knows which ending it will be? Saturday's "modern Australian classic" is The Dish, a 2000 comedy about mishaps at the outback radio telescope that assisted with America's moon landing. Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton star. Sunday has Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers hoofing it in one of their best, 1936's Swing Time. And next Wednesday is a "naughty nun" drama, Norman Jewison's Agnes of God. 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.

Filmvirus K-PopPop – This Sunday is the final double bill of contemporary South Korean films at Thammasat University Tha Prachan's library. Up first is Iri, a 2008 drama that looks at the scars that remain 30 years after the train station explosion in the city now known as Iksan. That's followed by Breathless, which follows the unusual friendship that develops between a loan-shark's thug and a young woman. The show starts at 12.30 on Sunday in the Rewat Buddhinan Room on floor U2, the basement. Dress appropriately and inform the desk worker you are there to see a movie. They'll then want an ID that can be copied. The campus is located on the river opposite the Chao Phraya River Express Wang Lang (Siriraj) pier. Take a ferry heading to Tha Prachan or Wat Mahathat. Call (02) 613-3529 or (02) 613-3530.

Alliance Française – "On a Journey" is the theme for this month's free French films, and next week's offering is Mariage à Mendoza, about brothers taking road trip across Argentina to attend a cousin's wedding. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, July 16.

Sneak preview

Earth to Echo — Boyhood friends encounter a small friendly alien robot in this "found footage" sci-fi comedy-drama that recalls E.T. Critical reception is mixed. This is in nightly sneak previews at most multiplexes before opening wide on July 24. Rated G