Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 1-7, 2015

May Who?

Teenage angst takes the form of electricity in the Thai teen romance May Nhai .. Fai Raeng Fer (เมย์ไหน..ไฟแรงเฟร่อ , a.k.a. May Who?), which is about a schoolgirl who is afflicted with a powerful electrical charge, which she releases when her heartbeat reaches 120 beats per second. This makes it difficult for her to get close to anyone.

Sutatta Udomsilp stars as May. She keeps a low profile at school in order to keep her shocking condition a secret, but her heart gets racing whenever she sees the star athlete Fame (Thanapob Leeratanakajorn). Her superpower is discovered by classmate Pong (Thiti Mahayotharak), a shy guy who also keeps to himself but has a crush on the school's most popular girl (Nareekul Katepraphakorn). So May agrees to help Pong score with his crush if he keeps her secret and helps her hook up with Fame.

May Who? has movie studio GTH doubling down on the last few months of the year, as the film is being released less than a month after the studio's current hit Freelance. Usually the studio makes just two or maybe three films a year, and spreads them out more. Sure to also do well at the box office, May Who? is directed by Chayanop Boonpakob, a former indie filmmaker who got his big commercial break with the 2011 hit SuckSeed, about a teenage rock band. Along with the special effects related to the girl's superpower, May Who? also includes animated segments, inspired by notebooks Chayanop drew in when he was in high school.

The new film has been accompanied by the usual promotional blitz by GTH, but it's been a bit awkward because talented young actress "PunPun" Sutatta has been suspended from working by the company after she and members of the cast of Hormones the Series misbehaved on a train while visiting Japan. They posted a clip of their rowdy behavior on social networks, not realizing that being disruptive on public transport is seriously frowned upon in orderly Japan. To prevent the breach in etiquette from becoming a major international incident, GTH made all involved issue apologies, and they punished PunPun and the others by banning them from social media and suspending them from work. And PunPun's suspension doesn't end until sometime next week, too late to support her new film before its release.

You can read more about the movie in an article in The Nation. Rated G

Also opening

The Tribe – From Ukraine, this crime drama is set in a boarding school for deaf children, where a new kid is drawn into the school's institutional system of organized crime. He becomes a pimp for a classmate and crosses the line when he falls in love with her. Directed by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, The Tribe was one of the most-buzzed-about, controversial titles at the Cannes Film Festival last year. It won loads of prizes on the festival circuit and made the top-10 lists of many critics. An unusual film, it's brought to Thai cinemas by a new distribution outfit, HAL Film, which will also release another buzzworthy oddball from film festivals, the Hungarian canine crime drama White God. Free of conventional dialogue, the characters in The Tribe communicate only in Ukrainian sign language and there are no subtitles, which is how it's meant to be seen. It's at Paragon and Esplanade Ratchada. Rated 20-

The Martian – Matt Damon is an astronaut left for dead on Mars after the mission is hit by a dust storm and the crew are forced to flee. Looking at a four-year wait for help to arrive, he turns to science to survive, using his skills as a botanist to grow a food crop. Meanwhile on Earth, there are conflicts in Nasa, where officials determine a rescue mission is too risky. Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover also star. Ridley Scott (Prometheus, Alien) directs, marking his return to space after last year's Biblical epic Exodus. Critical reception is very positive, especially from excited Nasa scientists, who worked closely with the production to keep things real. It's in 2D and converted 3D. Rated G

Hotel Transylvania 2 – The Sony Pictures Animation franchise continues, with Dracula opening his monsters-only resort hotel to the general public as he gets to know his half-human half-vampire grandson. Adam Sandler voices Dracula, with the voice cast featuring his pals Kevin James and David Spade. Other returnees from the first film include Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez and Steve Buscemi. Mel Brooks is among the new additions. He plays Dracula's dad Vlad. Written by former Saturday Night Live staffer Robert Smigel (the hand and voice behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog), this harmless family-friendly feature is directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, who previously did the cartoon series Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack. Critical reception is mixed. It's in 3D as well as 2D. Rated G

Attack on Titan: End of the World – Here's the sequel to Attack on Titan: Part 1, which was released here last month. A live-action adaptation of a manga series, the story is set in a post-apocalyptic future and deals with humans fighting against giant man-eating beings that have taken over the world. In Part 2, young hero Eren (Haruma Miura) leaves his walled city to join a revenge-seeking scouting party. Critical reception is mixed. As with Part 1, it's Thai-dubbed in most places, but has the original soundtrack at a few select downtown locations, including SF Terminal 21, SF Rama 9, Paragon and the Quartier CineArt. Rated 13+

Singh Is Bliing – Akshay Kumar stars in this colorful Punjabi comedy, which is a sequel of sorts to 2008's Singh Is Kiing, in which he played a happy-go-lucky simpleton who becomes a crime kingpin in Australia. Here, his comic misadventures take him to Romania in pursuit of a mysterious woman. Amy Jackson, Kay Kay Menon and Lara Dutta also star. It's directed by Prabhu Deva, who previously worked with Akshay on the action comedy-drama Rowdy Rathore. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon and at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – October at the FGC spotlights the work of English writer-director Andrew Birkin on Thursdays, starting tonight with the 1993 coming-of-age family drama The Cement Garden, based on novelist Ian McEwan's book. It won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin film fest. Fridays are devoted to adaptations of works by French writer Marcel Pagnol, starting tomorrow with 1986's rural drama Jean de Florette, which starred Gérard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil and Yves Montand and was at the time the most-expensive French film ever made. It won dozens of awards. Head to Ireland on Saturdays, with a line-up that starts with Alan Parker's The Commitments, about working-class Dubliners who form a soul band. The classic films of Hollywood tough-guy director Robert Aldrich screen on Sundays, starting with the 1955 film-noir Kiss Me Deadly. Ralph Meeker stars as Mickey Spillane's Los Angeles private eye Mike Hammer. Wednesdays have a line-up of documentaries, beginning next week with The Aristocrats, which is the story of a filthy joke that has kept comedians in stitches for generations. Special events in October include screenings of the made-in-Thailand South Korean romance So Very Very, courtesy of director Jack Park. And there's no Irish film on the last Saturday of the month. Instead, it's John Carpenter's Halloween, because, well, just look at the calendar. 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 – There are two free French films to list. At 2pm on Saturday, there's a "kids' movie", Peau d'âne. Also known as Donkey Skin, Jacques Demy's 1970 live-action musical is adapted from an old French fairy tale about a king who has grown wealthy thanks to his pet donkey's excrement of gold. When his wife dies, he seeks to marry his own daughter. With the help of her fairy godmother, the princess escapes the incestuous marriage by donning the skin of the magical donkey and going into hiding. Catherine Deneuve is the princess. Next week's usual free French film is La belle vie (The Good Life), a 2012 drama about brothers who have lived a life on the run with their father, dodging a custody battle with their mother. Coming of age, the youngest brother experiences his first crush. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, October 7, at the Alliance.

Shnit International Short Film Festival – The third Bangkok edition of Shnit runs from next Wednesday until October 11 at the Lido multiplex in Siam Square. Now in its 13th year, the Switzerland-based Shnit fest is held simultaneously in several cities, with Bangkok joining Bern, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Cape Town, Moscow, San José and Hong Kong. The selection includes new short-film entries from around the world plus a special bloc of "Made in Thailand" shorts. Find out more at the festival's Facebook events page.

Sneak preview

Sinister 2 – A young mother (Shannyn Sossamon) moves into an old farmhouse with her twin boys, who become haunted by an evil entity and are forced to watch gruesome home movies kept in the basement. This is a sequel to a 2012 horror, with James Ransone (Ziggy from The Wire) reprising his role from the first film as Deputy So-and-So. Here, he's an ex-deputy, but is still on the case, trying to prove the evil ghost is real. Critical reception is not as positive as it was for the first Sinister. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly in most cinemas and opens wider next Thursday. Meanwhile, the excellent U.S.-Mexico crime thriller Sicario continues in sneak previews before also opening wider next week.

Take note

The World Film Festival of Bangkok is set for November 13 to 22 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Keep an eye on the festival's Facebook page for a glimpse of the selection.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand has a special event on October 12 to mark the 25th anniversary of Netpac, the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema, with a screening of the indie Filipino film Foster Child. Director Brilliante Mendoza is scheduled to be in attendance with Netpac president Aruna Vasudev.

And outside Bangkok, Filmvirus has organized a touring show for Filipino director Lav Diaz's Venice prize-winning opus From What Is Before. Running just over 5.5 hours, it is an epic drama set in a small town during the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s. It screens on October 10 at Prince of Songkhla University in Pattani, 5pm on October 12 at Walailak University in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, 2pm on October 21 at Silpakorn University Pathum Thani and 2pm on November 7 at Chiang Mai University. Screenings in Bangkok are in the planning stages.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 24-30, 2015


The 1996 blizzard that killed eight climbers on the world's highest mountain is recounted in Everest, which in the grand tradition of Hollywood disaster epics boasts an expansive all-star cast.

Josh Brolin portrays adventuresome Texas medical doctor Beck Weathers. Jason Clarke is Rob Hall, the New Zealander leader of one expedition, with Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer, head of another expedition group.

They are in a fight for survival when a freak blizzard blankets the mountain and leaves the climbers with no way to get down from the deadly heights they've reached. Chances of survival become slimmer and slimmer as oxygen-bottle supplies are depleted.

Others in the cast include John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Robin Wright and Emily Watson. Keira Knightley is Hall's pregnant wife stuck back home in New Zealand, whom he calls while stranded on the peak. Transcripts of those calls provided the basis for some of the film, as does the work of Outdoors magazine writer Jon Krakauer, whose article about the disaster was adapted into the best-selling book Into Thin Air. He's played in the film by Michael Kelly.

Decades in development by Hollywood, Everest finally comes to the screen under up-and-coming Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (Two Guns).

Following high-profile premieres at fests in Venice and elsewhere, Everest kicks off the autumn-winter blockbuster season leading up to the Oscars. Critical reception is generally favorable.

In addition to conventional screens, it's also in converted 3D, including IMAX. Rated G

Also opening

Pawn Sacrifice – Tobey Maguire is positively unhinged as he portrays the eccentric American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer in this biographical drama, which portrays Fischer as a pawn of Cold War superpowers, coming under pressure as he prepared for the 1972 World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, facing the formidable Russian master Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, Defiance) directs. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 15+

Cooties – Tainted school-cafeteria chicken transforms children into zombie-like monsters, forcing a motley band of teachers to work together to survive. Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson and Jack McBrayer star in this indie horror comedy, which premiered at Sundance last year. The writers behind it are an odd couple, Leigh Whannell, who came up with the gory Saw and Insidious movies, and Ian Brennan, one of the creators of the TV series Glee. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

The Green Inferno – Tarantino cohort and torture-porn purveyor Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) pays tribute to the cult Italian horror Cannibal Holocaust with this thriller about idealistic American college students hoping to stop deforestation in the Amazon. Their plane crashes in the territory of natives they hoped to protect – a primitive tribe that still practices cannibalism and ritual dismemberment. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Mard Payak: The Great Muay Thai Fighter (มาดพยัคฆ์) – Nation Multimedia Group’s Now 26 TV channel breaks into film with this documentary on boxer Samart Payakaroon. Winner of four national weight-class titles and the 1982 World Boxing Council featherweight champ, he was a fearsome fighter who was known as the "Jade Tiger". Made with Samart’s cooperation, the documentary includes dramatized scenes from his upbringing and career, with actors portraying him at various ages. Norachai Kajchapanont directs. You can read more about the film in an article in The Nation. It's at SF Cinemas.

Siam Yuth: The Dawn of the Kingdom (สยามยุทธ) – Two-fisted swordfighting shirtless youngsters fight for honor and country in this historical-action epic. It's been on the books for many months, but has been repeatedly postponed for reasons I'm not privy to. I guess now the time is right for a jingoistic war flick. The story, as far as I can make out, deals with a tight-knit group of friends who take up the fight against a local warlord in ancient Siam. Rated 15+

Boruto: Naruto the Movie – The 11th entry in the manga-based franchise has young Boruto, son of ninja leader Naruto Uzumaki, hoping to surpass his father’s heroic deeds. He engages his father’s friend, Sasuke Uchiha as his trainer. Most of these manga/anime movies are usually only Thai dubbed, but according to information I've been given, it's in Japanese with Thai subtitles at Apex, Paragon, Quartier Cineart, SFC Terminal 21 and SFW CentralWorld. Rated G

Kis Kisko Pyaar Karu – Popular Indian stand-up comedian Kapil Sharma makes his film debut, playing four roles in this romantic farce about a guy who has married three times and is on the lookout for wife number four. It's in Hindi With English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The club has a private event tonight but the month of directorial debuts wraps up tomorrow with Wes Anderson's quirky comedy Bottle Rocket, which features Anderson's Texas pals the Wilson brothers, Owen (who co-wrote the movie), Luke and Andrew. Saturday, it's Guy Ritchie's turn, with his crime farce Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Wish he still made movies like that. Sunday has one more Douglas Sirk film for the month, with 1955's All That Heaven Allows, starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. Tuesday has Wes Craven's Scream 2 and the month closes out with one more unusual sci-fi entry, the proto-science-fiction film, 1927's Metropolis. 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.

Movies on Design – Part of the Bangkok Design Festival, Movies on Design has five documentaries screening at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center this Friday and Saturday and next Friday and Sunday. The selection consists of Microtopia, about tiny houses; The Startup Kids, about the founders of such Web-based initiatives as Vimeo, Dropbox and Soundcloud; Where Architects Live, featuring the living spaces of Zaha Hadid and other famous building designers; Koolhaas Houselife, which looks at the unexpected hassles of living in an architectural masterpiece; and Gamer Age, a study on the evolution of video games. These are ticketed shows. For the schedule and other details, please see the BACC's website.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – In 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdal wanted to prove his theory that Polynesia was settled from the West by indigenous South Americans. To do so, he built a balsa-wood raft, just like the sailors in pre-Columbian times used. The 4,300-mile, 101-day voyage became the subject of an Oscar-winning 1950 documentary by Heyerdal, and it serves as the basis for 2012's Kon-Tiki, an adventure epic that is Norway's most expensive film production yet. A gripping drama, it was a nominee for the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. Gutsy directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who ignored the advice of other filmmakers and actually made their film in the open ocean rather than a studio, have since been tapped to helm the upcoming next Pirates of the Caribbean movie with Johnny Depp. Kon-Tiki screens at 7pm on Monday at the FCCT as part of the club's Contemporary World Film Series. The screening is courtesy of the Royal Norwegian Embassy. Admission is 150 baht for non-members and 100 baht for anyone want the embassy's beer, salmon and other delicacies.

Alliance Française – An paroled thief is coaxed back into the life of crime by old cohorts who want to steal a priceless gem in Le dernier diamant (The Last Diamond). To do so, the thief must get close to a woman who is a gem expert. Eric Barbier directs and Yvan Attal, Bérénice Béjo, Jean-François Stévenin and Antoine Basler star. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, September 30, at the Alliance.

Sneak preview

Sicario – Here's another movie that's already attracting a fair bit of awards-season buzz. Emily Blunt stars has a hard-driving FBI agent who is recruited to join a top-secret anti-drugs task force on the U.S.-Mexico border. Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro and Victor Garber also star. It's directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy). Following its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, critical reception is extremely positive. Sicario is in a two-week sneak preview run, with shows from around 8 nightly in most multiplexes. It opens in a wider release on October 8. Rated 15+

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 17-23, 2015

Mae Bia (The Snake)

Giant snake aside, it's the same old story with veteran director and drama coach ML Bandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula, who adapts yet another well-known Thai tale with his latest film Mae Bia (แม่เบี้ย, a.k.a. The Snake).

Based on a short story by the late writer Vanich Charoenkit-anant, it's the erotic tale of a married businessman returning to Thailand after many years overseas. Feeling the need for a refresher course in Thai ways, he signs up for a cultural tour and becomes smitten with the enchanting guide Mekhala. Sparks fly, but Mekhala has a symbiotic relationship with a supernatural cobra, which makes her deadly to would-be suitors.

Journeyman actor Shahkrit Yamnarm stars alongside newcomer "Oam" Karnpithchar Katemanee, a third-place winner of Thailand Miss World 2009.

As with the other movies the veteran drama coach Mom Noi has made since his return to filmmaking a few years ago, Mae Bia is an old and often-adapted tale. It has already been made into a film at least twice, including a 2004 version that featured Napakprapha "Mamee" Nakprasert in one of her big break-out roles.

Mom Noi's other late-period efforts are Chua Fah Din Salai (Eternity), U Mong Pha Mueang, Jan Dara and last year's Plae Kao (The Scar). Aside from the Rashomon remake U Mong Pha Meuang, all are slavish adaptations of well-worn and well-known stories from the canon of Thai popular literature. And to a certain segment of Thai society these stories never get old. Appearing to have been made in the bygone eras in which they are set, Mom Noi's movies feature unabashedly stagebound acting, sumptuous period costumes, lush backdrops and lots and lots of sex scenes. It's rated 18+

Also opening

Burying the Ex – Director Joe Dante looks to be capturing a little bit of the old fun B-movie flair he had with such movies as Matinee, Gremlins and The Howling. A low-budget effort, Burying the Ex stars Anton Yelchin as a fellow who is afraid of his manipulative and controlling girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene). After she is killed in a freak accident, young Max moves on to a new girl (Alexandra Daddario), but Evelyn returns from the grave as a zombie and is more menacing than ever. It's at SF cinemas. Critical reception has been mixed. Rated 15+

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails – In part two of the latest franchise to be ripped from the pages of a young-adult novel, Thomas (Dylan OBrien) and his fellow Gladers, including Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), Minho (Lee Ki-hong) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), find their way out of the Maze only to stumble on a confusing world run by the mysterious organization WCKD. Searching for answers, the youngsters decide to brave the Scorch, a vast expanse of post-apocalyptic desert. Among the stars in this new installment is Aiden Gillan from Game of Thrones and The Wire. Critical reception has been mixed. Rated 13+

The Case of Hana and Alice – In this animated prequel to Shunji Iwai’s 2004 live-action youth drama, Alice is a newly arrived student who becomes friends with the neighbor girl Hana. The two seek to solve the mystery surrounding the death of a classmate. The rotoscope method is used to animate this story, allowing actresses Anne Suzuki and Yu Aoi, who played Hana and Alice 10 years ago, to play younger versions of their characters. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex, House and Quartier CineArt. Rated G

Jurassic World: The 3D IMAX Experience – Genetically enhanced dinosaurs are bigger and badder than ever as the record-setting blockbuster from earlier this summer returns for a one-week engagement at IMAX theaters. Worth noting, as I often have on this blog, the only honest-to-goodness IMAX screen in Thailand is at Paragon. There are several other IMAX theaters in Thailand now, and though the IMAX company refuses to distinguish any differences between them, these newer "IMAX Digital" outlets have smaller screens and in my book they are not real IMAX theaters. Accept no substitutes. Rated G

Katti Batti – Touted as an "anti-romance", this Bollywood comedy-drama has an architect (Imran Khan) falling head-over-heels in love with a quirky, free-spirited young woman (Kangana Ranaut). She's different, and that's what attracts the guy. But just as suddenly as she enters his life, she leaves. 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 – The month of directorial debuts continues with Christopher Nolan's Memento tonight, Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies and Videotape tomorrow and Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs on Saturday. Douglas Sirk Sunday has Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall in Written on the Wind. Next Tuesday is the film that kicked off the revitalized career of Wes Craven, 1994's Scream. And next Wednesday is another showcase from last year's Shnit International Short Film Festival, in a run-up to this year's fest, which is set for October 7 to 18, and is held simultaneously in major cities worldwide, including Bangkok. 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 – The month of female-focused movies continues with L'homme qu'on aimait trop (In the Name of My Daughter). Catherine Deneuve stars in the fact-based drama as the owner of a casino in Nice, who has a strained relationship with her fiercely independent daughter (Adèle Haenel). Further stress comes when the daughter enters into a relationship with a womanizing lawyer (Guillaume Canet), and eventually disappears, prompting the mother to launch an epic search. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, September 23, at the Alliance.

Sneak preview

Everest – And the autumn-winter blockbuster season has officially begun, with the fall's first big Hollywood tentpole Everest hitting the screen in sneak previews before a bigger release next week, following its world premiere last week at the Venice Film Festival. Based partly on the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Everest recounts the 1996 disaster on the world's highest mountain, when a sudden blizzard blanketed the peak, killing eight climbers. Touted as a "3D epic" it is nevertheless in converted 3D. It's screening in sneak previews from around 8 nightly at most multiplexes and opens wider next Thursday. Rated G